Even though the manifestoes of political parties in India released before elections have lost their old values and integrity due to general experience of broken promises, these still offer windows through which one can see what actually has been changing between the two elections. BJP’s manifesto of 2022 is also not an exception in which one can clearly see how the party has degenerated in Uttar Pradesh since 2017 under Yogi Adityanath and ultimately stricken with panic under fear of losing reins of power.
There is a long list of change that can be seen simply by comparing the BJP’s manifesto of 2017 and of 2022. The promise of “Anti-Romeo squads” in 2017 did not carry any bias – neither of castes nor of religion. Such a neutral term has been changed to a communal term “love jihad” in the 2022 manifesto. At that time it was part of “Sashakt Naari, Samaan Adhikar” agenda that was again a neutral term. It was conceived that special teams at police stations would be set up to deal with the incident of eve-teasing. No communal or caste colour was there in that.
The BJP leader at that time who wanted to give communal colour to the “anti-Romeo squads” promise had to go beyond the manifesto 2017 to tell the people during rallies that the promise was actually intended against “love jihad”. The party came to power, anti-Romeo squads were set up. However, it could not prevent the love birds from all casts and religions and inter-caste and inter-religious marriages continued. The BJP that chiefly depend on consolidation of Hindu votes even brought an anti-conversion law in 2020 to prevent conversion of Hindu girls through marries. The propaganda machinery remained active to present a scenario that Muslims are carrying on love jihad and their boys are seducing Hindu girls into marriage.
Neutrality of a language and understanding thus compromised in favour of more communal and sexist views projecting that only Hindu girls are made victims. The whole Hindu community are being tried to put under fear that their daughters and sisters are not safe because of the Muslims. Thus getting the term love jihad into the BJP’s manifesto 2022 is a degeneration that reflects the frustration of the party fearing loss of their power in the coming assembly election if the party fail to keep their Hindu voters intact. A few questions can be asked – such as how it come within five years under BJP’s rule that Hindu girls becoming victim to love jihad carried on by Muslims? If it is true, is it not the failure of the same government that intends to bring legislation on love jihad? Is it not right-wing conspiracy theory that only Muslim me seduce only Hindu women and only to covert them? Can we deny love between the couple? Why only Muslim men be punished and only Hindu girls to be protected, and why not such promise cover all if at all it is required? Can we ban love?
The degeneration of the BJP has accelerated after the death of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2018. It may be considered a turning point. The influence of Atal Behari Vajpayee was still being felt in the Uttar Pradesh politics in 2017 though he was inactive due to illness, and the leaders perhaps could not have courage to become so blatantly communal as we have been seeing now. It should not be out of place to mention that even Narendra Modi did not blatantly communalized the political scenario in the country during the Lok Sabha elections 2014, did not promise such free bees as the party is now promising in the manifesto, but promised a life of dignity with development, which he did not deliver even after a rue of almost eight years.
However, the party had degenerated within three years and promised many freebees in the manifesto 2017, though their numbers were fewer than now promised, and the amount involved was also much less than it has been offered in the manifesto 2022. In reply to an allegation of not fulfilling the promises made in 2017 Amit Shah has claimed, “I can say with pride that 92 per cent of our 212 pledges have been fulfilled…”. It may be his ‘joomla’ as he has earlier suggested about many promises made in 2014.
The long list of freebees for voters in the manifesto 2022 includes the promise of free electricity for irrigation for farmers and jobs or self-employment opportunities to at least one member of each family, obviously to pacify the anger of large number of unemployed youth and the jobless and the farmers who had to fight one year and lose 700 lives to get Modi’s three farm laws withdrawn while still waiting for the promises fulfilled. The manifesto also promises two free LPG cylinders – one each on Holi and Diwali under the Ujjwala Yojana scheme. This promise clearly violates the principle of neutrality of the state on religious ground. One should ask why only on Holi and Diwali, why not on other occasions such as Eid or Christmas, or other religion neural occasions such as Republic or Independence Day? It is clearly a degeneration from the Indian ethos and Constitutional values.
Degeneration can also be seen even in the printing of photographs on the manifesto which reflect autocracy in which the party has fallen. It is all Modi and Yogi on the cover page, in place of earlier tradition of democratic attitude in the party accommodating photographs of leaders representing various communities to show that the party cares for all. Brahmins, OBCs, and Dalits have been already experiencing such neglect by the party leadership for the last five years of Yogi rule, and hence large chunk of their voters have been shifting to other political parties, which has made the BJP disparate that is reflected in publication of the manifesto 2022 making it of very low quality betraying the real unholy intentions sought to be concealed in the language. (IPA Service)