3 Apr 2009,
NEW DELHI: Keen to connect with the urban voter hit by the economic slowdown, the BJP manifesto - to be released on Friday which happens to be Ram Navami - will promise a "low tax, low interest rate" regime along with targeted spending on infrastructure if the party is voted back to power.
The BJP manifesto will not forget to address the rural-farm constituency, pledging interest rates for farm loans at 4%. But inner-party discussions have felt the need to make a strong pitch to the middle classes, feeling the pain of job losses and gripped by a deepening sense of uncertainty.
BJP managers are yet to fully zero in on economic issues in the party's media campaign but are thinking of posing questions over whether voters felt better off after five years of UPA rule. With tax-paying classes suffering a double whammy of high interest rates for most of UPA's term coupled with slowing growth, BJP hopes to tap the discontent to its benefit.
The party's campaign managers point to the low interest rates of 7-8% during NDA years which triggered a boom in building and the rapid unrolling of road, ports and telecom projects. Without specifying percentages, BJP will indicate that it will not increase the burden on tax payers by way of additional cesses and could consider extending tax breaks to spur consumer spending.
While the slowdown is clearly linked to the global financial crisis and BJP has more than its fair share of in-house anti-globalisation voices, the party has argued that neither did the Manmohan Singh government see last year's inflation coming nor has it been able to adequately respond to the challenge of recession.
BJP has blamed the government for not creating investment opportunities in infrastructure rapidly enough to absorb high levels of FDI and domestic funds leading to the economy overheating. Now with value of properties dipping, new building projects slowing down, highway and power programmes reduced to a crawl, BJP feels UPA must take the rap for not being able to sustain the growth impetus.
"The urban mood is grim, the party will definitely keep the middle class in mind," said sources.
The BJP manifesto is expected to be followed by an NDA agenda for governance and both documents will speak of getting the economy moving by expenditure on infrastructure but are also expected to retain populist features. BJP leaders admit that despite patchy implementation, rural employment guarantee has been a hit as has been the case with cheap foodgrain.
BJP is expected to "more than match" Congress's Rs 3 a kg rice offer. BJP will also borrow a leaf from the successful schemes devised by NDA governments like the "ladli" programme for girls in Madhya Pradesh.
BJP will focus on security issues as well, which it feels rank high with the voters along with the economic constriction. Apart from criticising the UPA's failures in containing terrorism, BJP will promise to overhaul policing and intelligence besides promising tougher anti-terror laws.