4 Apr 2009,
For stability & security India needs a decisive leader
A quirk of fate brought the Congress to power at the Centre in the summer of 2004. The United Progressive Alliance that it put together, which was able to secure parliamentary majority with the help of the Left parties, has shown remarkable lack of cohesiveness with individual Ministers representing the Congress’ allies running their allotted Ministries like their personal fiefdom. This was a Government totally divorced from the twin principles of collective responsibility and accountability.
The nation was thus burdened with a Prime Minister who was in office but not in power; and, a Government that was in power but not in authority. This was supposed to be a Government that would work for the welfare of the aam admi – the common man. As it prepares to exit office after five years, the government has nothing to show by way of extending a ‘hand’ to the aam admi.
This Government will be remembered for four things. It was headed by the weakest Prime Minister the country has ever had. Its reversal of NDA’s policies has led to a mounting sense of insecurity fuelled by repeated terrorist attacks, Maoist insurgency and separatist violence which together have claimed hundreds of innocent lives. Its gross mismanagement of the economy has caused inflation, job losses and lockouts. And, it has shielded corruption at high places by misusing agencies of the state, namely the CBI.
The Congress has tried to whitewash its terrible record on the national security front, especially its abysmal failure to protect citizens from terrorism, by making cosmetic changes in antiquated laws. This is clearly not enough. It has sought to gloss over the increasing cost of food, which is eight per cent higher than in 2008, and many times more than in 2004, by projecting misleading statistics.
Lakhs of people in the unorganised sector have lost their jobs over the past year. Skilled workers are losing their jobs in the organised sector. This is far worse than unemployment because it impoverishes families dependent on assured income and dampens the national spirit.
The worst hit are India’s youth, especially those who are looking forward to enter the job market. The Congress-led UPA Government has gifted them with a bleak future. As for the poor, they feel abandoned by the Congress-led regime. The much-publicised National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme has turned out to be as much a flop as all other schemes of the Government. It is a telling comment on the UPA’s performance that a whopping 55 million people have been pushed below the poverty line over the past five years. This is according to a study by the Indian Statistical Institute, based on data collated by the National Sample Survey Organisation; the real figure could be much higher.
In rural India, thousands of farmers have committee suicide to escape the burden of mounting debt and grinding poverty. They are victims of Government apathy.
An equally damning indictment of the Congress-led UPA regime is galloping urban poverty. An estimated 23.7 per cent of the population in cities and towns lives in slums, according to ‘India: Urban Poverty Report, 2009’, amid squalor, crime, disease and tension.
Such glaring deprivation and denial, such rising numbers of people below the poverty line, contradict this nation’s aspirations. They are obstacles to India’s emergence as a great power and need to be removed through remedial Government intervention.
The stability of the NDA years helped India to prosper. The drift of the UPA years has put India in reverse gear. The BJP will restore the stability which India desperately needs.
The BJP, immediately upon coming to power, will address the key issues of security and economy. It will resume the employment-generating, prosperity-creating policies of the NDA government headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, through massive investments in infrastructure projects, by nursing agriculture back to health, and by making credit easily accessible to industry, while ensuring the safety and security of all people from the depredations of terrorists.
India today faces a severe crisis of leadership. The nation needs determined and decisive leader who has the capacity, commitment and conviction to take command of the situation and lead from the front. The country needs a leader who can restore Government’s credibility and the people’s confidence in themselves. The polity needs a leader who values consensus over conflict, consultation over confrontation. Then alone can good governance replace the all-round failure of the Congress.
That leader is LK Advani.
Shri Advani has an exemplary record of service to the nation covering over six decades. A leader of impeccable integrity, he was one of the chief crusaders for democracy during the Emergency (1975-77) and spent 19 months in jail. He led the Ayodhya movement, the biggest mass movement in India since Independence, and initiated a powerful debate on cultural nationalism and the true meaning of secularism. Along with Shri Vajpayee, he was the principal architect of the BJP’s triumph, as the head of the National Democratic Alliance, in forming a stable and successful non-Congress coalition Government at the Centre (1998-2004). As India’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, he ably assisted Shri Vajpayee in steering the ship of the nation through difficult waters.
The BJP is proud that it is seeking the people’s mandate in the 2009 general election, along with its allies in the NDA, under the leadership of Shri Advani. The BJP is contesting the 2009 15th Lok Sabha election on a Manifesto that commits the party to an agenda for change guided by three goals: Good governance, development and security.
Our focus will be on the nation’s youth, on addressing their concerns and helping them achieve their aspirations. We will lay emphasis on empowerment through excellence by providing quality education. We will ensure the security of life and property. Reviving the economy, re-orienting it towards agriculture, rural development, and unorganised and informal sectors; creating adequate employment opportunities for the youth; pushing back the price line; and, investing heavily in infrastructure projects are at the top of our agenda.
The BJP believes that after five years of drift and missed opportunities, the time has come for a Government that works, a Government that cares. Our primary concern will be India’s rapid, inclusive, equitable and all-embracing development and stable growth that benefits the largest number of people. We will invest in rural development; we will ensure higher agricultural productivity and guarantee an assured income to farmers; and, we will protect the livelihood of the masses while creating myriad opportunities of gainful employment.
National security: Fear shall no longer stalk this land
The last five years have been a nightmare for the people of this country as terrorists, separatists and insurgents have led the effete UPA Government on a macabre dance of death and destruction. From the daring attack on Delhi on the eve of Diwali in 2005 to the fidayeen raid on the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, from the horrendous bombings in Hyderabad (including at Mecca Masjid), Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Guwahati to the slaughter of worshippers at Sankat Mochan Temple in Banaras, the terrorists have struck repeatedly with impunity as the Prime Minister spent sleepless nights agonising over the plight of terror suspects and eagerly offered to reward the kith and kin of terrorists killed in action.
The UPA began its tenure by dismantling the anti-terror regime put together by the BJP-led NDA Government: The Prevention of Terrorism Act was scrapped; investigations were halted; and, prosecution was slowed down. The mastermind behind the daring attack on Parliament House, Mohammed Afzal Guru, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court after being prosecuted under POTA. But a dissolute Government headed by an irresolute Prime Minister has failed to carry out the execution, sending out a clear message to India’s enemies: They shall not be punished till such time the Congress is in power.
It is, therefore, not surprising that terrorists should have repeatedly attacked our cities, leaving behind a bloody trail of death and destruction. Delhi, the nation’s capital, and Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, have been hit twice, as has been Bangalore, India’s technology capital. As if the bombings of the commuter trains were not enough, the ISI despatched fidayeen for a multiple strike on Mumbai which began on November 26, 2008, and lasted for more than 60 hours. Never before has India been seen to be so helpless in the face of terror.
Terrorism sponsored by Pakistani agencies is only one of the reasons behind the fear that grips the people in cities, towns and villages. The life and limb of the aam admi is equally in danger on account of Maoists who have expanded their theatre of violence to 156 districts across 13 States. The inter-State coordination mechanism put in place by the NDA Government has been dismantled and State Governments have been virtually left to fend for themselves in the face of mounting Maoist hostility. In Jammu & Kashmir, separatists continue to use the services of Pakistani terrorists to promote their agenda of relentless violence. In the North-East, insurgents have remorselessly killed and maimed innocent people. The situation in Assam is particularly of concern as the ULFA, which had been all but smashed during the NDA years, has regrouped and rearmed its cadres, and unleashed a relentless wave of terror. The Congress State Government has done nothing to either prevent this violence or punish ULFA; instead, unconditional talks have been offered to the killers!
Internal security is also imperilled by unchecked illegal immigration across our eastern border. The vulnerability of these illegal immigrants has been time and again exploited by the ISI and its jihadi front organisations as well as local terror cells to carry out bombings and provide logistical support to foreign terrorists. The Supreme Court has described illegal immigration as an act of ‘external aggression’ while striking down the IMDT Act. But the Congress, both at the Centre and in Assam, has tried to circumvent the Supreme Court’s judgement through executive orders. The Gauhati High Court last year lashed out at the State Government for doing nothing to stop the illegal immigration. The High Court highlighted how a Pakistani, who had entered Assam via Bangladesh, contested Assembly elections unchallenged. Vote-bank politics has not only changed the demography of vast stretches of eastern and North-East India but also eroded the authority of the state. India is sitting on a tinderbox. The consequences of this unabated illegal immigration are bound to be disastrous.
In its dying days, the UPA Government has tried to fool the people by tampering with outdated laws and setting up a National Investigating Agency to fight terror. But such half-hearted efforts to calm anger and disquiet following the 26/11 outrage are neither enough nor the right approach to tacking the menace of terrorism.
The BJP will initiate the following measures within 100 days of coming to power:
1. Revive the anti-terror mechanism that has been dismantled by the Congress; improve upon POTA to ensure it is more effective as an instrument of deterrence and a tool to prosecute offenders without innocent people being harassed; and, strengthen the operational role of the National Investigating Agency.
2. Give assent to laws drafted by State Governments for dealing with organised crime and terrorism; encourage other State Governments to adopt similar laws.
3. Launch a massive programme to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants.
4. Completely revamp the internal and external intelligence agencies and review the existing system of coordination, convergence and dissemination of intelligence inputs. A massive exercise will be undertaken to modernise intelligence agencies so that they are better equipped to use technology and cope with the rapidly changing trends and patterns of terrorism at home and abroad. The National Security Council will be made the hub of all sector-related assessments. It will be accountable for real-time intelligence dissemination; intelligence agencies will be held responsible for lapses. Appointments to intelligence agencies will be on merit and not because of political patronage as has been the system during the Congress years.
5. A Digital Security Agency will be set up to deal with cyber warfare, cyber counterterrorism, and cyber security of national digital assets.
6. State Governments will be provided with all assistance to modernise their respective police forces and equip them with the latest weaponry and communications technology.
This will be done on a mission mode approach. The police are the first responders to any crisis situation. Drawing lessons from experience, police forces will be trained and fully equipped to deal with situations similar to that of Mumbai and in meeting the challenge posed by Maoists and insurgents.
7. Border management will be reviewed and improved. Punitive measures will be introduced to block illegal immigration.
8. India’s vast coastline is virtually unprotected. Coastal security will be strengthened for better patrolling of Indian waters and preventing terrorists from taking the sea route to enter India. A National Maritime Authority will be set up to coordinate coastal security.
9. Special courts will be set up for speedy prosecution of those involved with acts of terrorism. Their trial shall be fair and justice will be done to the victims swiftly.
10. Coercive measures, including diplomacy, will be used to deal with countries which promote cross-border terrorism. India will engage with the world in the global war on terror while not compromising on its domestic interests, primarily protecting citizens from the ravages of terrorism.
11. The Centre will facilitate better inter-State coordination and real-time intelligence-sharing, apart from helping States to raise anti-insurgency forces, to face the threat posed by Maoists. The ‘Chhattisgarh Model’ will be used for counter-Maoist operations. At the same time, every effort will be made to address the social and economic issues that make the ground fertile for Left-wing extremism.
12. Any talks with insurgent groups will be conditional and within the framework of the Constitution. The BJP will send out a simple message, loud and clear, to terrorists and their sponsors: They will have to pay a heavy price for each innocent life lost. Retribution will be swift and exemplary. The authority of the state, which has been diminished by the Congress in pursuit of vote-bank politics, shall be restored.
National Identity Cards for All: The BJP will launch an innovative programme to establish a countrywide system of multi-purpose national identity cards so as to ensure national security, correct welfare delivery, accurate tax collection, financial inclusion and voter registration. Voter identity cards, PAN cards, passports, ration cards and BPL cards are already in use though not all with photo identity. The NDA proposes to make it incumbent for every Indian to have a National Identity Card. The programme will be completed in three years.
The National Identity Card will contain enough memory and processing capabilities to run multiple applications. Through it the NDA will ensure efficient welfare delivery and tax collection. The card will also be linked to a bank account. All welfare payments, including widow and old age pensions, through the wide range of schemes such as Mother and Child support/ Kisan Credit, Students Assistance and Micro-Credit will be channelised through the National Identity Card. The card will make it possible for individuals to save and borrow money; for farmers to get bank credit, also establish accurate land titles data.
The National Identity Card will also strengthen national security by ensuring accurate citizen identity, thus tracking illegal immigration. All financial transactions, purchase of property and access to public services will be possible only on the basis of the National Identity Card which will be made forgery and hacking resistant.
Engaging the world: India’s voice shall be heard
The BJP believes a resurgent India must get its rightful place in the comity of nations and international institutions. The BJP also believes in a multi-polar world with no nation having overriding powers over others. Towards this end, the BJP in power will engage in meaningful diplomacy with nations across the world on equal terms. The BJP’s foreign policy will be based on the principle of enlightened self-interest.
The BJP desires good relations between India and the USA and will strengthen the India US strategic partnership on the principle of equality. But we will not compromise on either India’s national interest or relations with another friendly country. The BJP will restore the balance that has been disturbed by the UPA Government.
India’s traditional relations with Russia and the Central Asian Republics will be refashioned to keep pace with current realities and derive maximum mutual advantage.
We will pursue friendly relations with the European Union, West Asian countries and South-East Asian nations. It will further strengthen relations with Arab countries and pursue enhanced cooperation with Israel – the two are not inter-linked and both are beneficial for India.
The dialogue process of solving the outstanding border dispute with China, which was initiated by the NDA Government under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership, will be revived. We believe that both India and China can prosper and rise together; increased economic cooperation can contribute to this.
India has a special role to play in the Indian Ocean region and we will pursue this vigorously. The BJP believes in forging enduring friendly and cooperative relations with India’s neighbours. We also believe that political stability, progress and peace in India’s neighbourhood are essential for South Asia’s growth and development: SAARC is a good platform to promote these goals.
But the BJP will be guided solely by national interest while dealing with India’s neighbours. Towards this end, its decisions and actions in power will be determined by the following:
Pakistan: There can be no ‘comprehensive dialogue’ for peace unless Pakistan a) dismantles the terrorist infrastructure on territory under its control; b) actively engages in prosecuting terror elements and organisations; c) puts a permanent, verifiable end to its practice of using cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy; d) stops using the territory of third countries to launch terror attacks on India; and, e) hands over to India individuals wanted for committing crimes on Indian soil.
Nepal: The BJP will re-craft India’s Nepal policy to rid it of the UPA’s biases that have influenced India’s response to events in Nepal with which our country shares a common civilisational and cultural history. India-Nepal relations must be based on friendship, mutual cooperation and harmony of interests. Towards this end, existing arrangements will be reviewed and revised bearing in mind mutual interests and benefits on the basis of dialogue. The BJP would like to see Nepal emerge as a stable, prosperous country, and will strive to strengthen age-old fraternal ties.
Bhutan: Existing close relations with Bhutan will be strengthened.
Bangladesh: The BJP will pro-actively engage the Government of Bangladesh on issues of mutual assistance and benefit. A friendly Government in Dhaka is in India’s interest.
Sri Lanka: The BJP believes that Sri Lanka has the right to deal with terrorism on its soil. At the same time, the political, economic and human rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority community must be protected by the Government in Colombo. The BJP will pursue a robust relationship with Sri Lanka and regain the initiative that has been lost during the last five years.
Afghanistan: The BJP believes that India has an important role in helping the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their country and stabilise their society, as well as secure their lives from the depredations of the Taliban operating from Pakistani sanctuaries. The BJP will further build upon India-Afghanistan relations and work in close association with the international community to ensure a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.
Mother India’s Children Abroad: The BJP will maintain close contacts with people of Indian origin who have settled on foreign shores. It has been the consistent policy of the BJP to promote the interests of people of Indian origin living abroad. During the NDA years, special efforts were made to revive and revitalise the ties between Pravasi Bharatiyas and their ancestral land by institutionalising the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, honouring achievers and introducing the PIO card. Those efforts will be given a further boost.
Defending India: No compromise, no concession
The Indian Army, Air Force and Navy need to be strengthened in view of rapidly changing regional and global realities. Tragically, the services have been ignored by the Congress and failure to address the concerns of the Army, Air Force and Navy has bred undesirable discontent. The BJP will address all pending issues immediately. It will be guided by the following solemn commitments while dealing with the defence of India:
1. The long-pending acquisition of military hardware will be expedited through absolutely transparent means in a time-bound manner.
2. Budget allocations for defence forces will be spent without being allowed to lapse. The criminal negligence of the defence forces by the UPA Government has resulted in nearly Rs 24,000 crore by way of budgetary allocations being allowed to lapse over five years. This not only endangers the lives of our soldiers but also the security of the nation.
3. Our forces are performing a service to the nation and deserve better pay and privileges.
Towards this end, the BJP is committed to the following measures:
a. The pending issues of pay and privileges will be revisited and resolved to the satisfaction of the defence forces. The modalities for setting up a separate Pay
Commission for the forces will be expedited;
b. All personnel of the Army, Air Force and Navy, as also paramilitary forces, will be exempt from paying income tax on their salaries and perquisites;
c. The honorarium for winners of gallantry awards like Pram Vir Chakra, which is abysmally low at Rs 500 to Rs 3,000, will be increased ten-fold to Rs 5,000 to Rs 30,000.
This will be done with retrospective effect; the honorarium will be tax free.
d. The principle of one rank, one pension will be implemented;
e. Incentive-based steps will be taken to make joining the defence services an exciting proposition for young men and women to overcome the shortage of officers; and,
f. Incentives will be offered to State Governments for ensuring honourable settlement of retired personnel of the defence services.
4. The present shortage of defence personnel at all levels will be met by making the Services an attractive career option. This would include competitive pay and privileges, and pension benefits. This task will be completed in a time-bound manner. 5. The capacities of Defence Research and Development Organisation will be enhanced. The PPP route will be explored for conventional defence production bearing in mind the nation’s needs and to make India a competitive player in the global market by 2020.
Independent strategic nuclear programme: We will assert India’s sovereignty
The BJP believes that India’s strategic nuclear programme has been deeply compromised by the Congress. The gains of Pokhran-II and subsequent development have been frittered away for gains that have accrued to those who wish to see India’s nuclear programme to be contained, rolled back and eventually dismantled.
The BJP will reverse this drift. India’s indigenous thorium technology programme will be expedited and given all financial assistance, correcting the grievous wrong done by the UPA Government. India needs nuclear energy, but not at the cost of our national strategic interests. The Congress has fooled the people of India by selling the over-hyped India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as an absolute necessity and how it will help light up people’s homes. It has done so by suppressing two crucial facts. First, as the CAG has pointed out, the UPA Government did not make the smallest effort to tap India’s own nuclear fuel supplies. Had it done so, our reactors would have produced many times more power than at present. Second, nuclear power is tremendously expensive and not affordable for the aam admi. The India-US nuclear deal, in the final analysis, is not about empowering India but disempowering India by making us dependent on American supplies and tying us to discriminatory regimes from which Pakistan is free.
The BJP will honour India’s commitments to prevent proliferation. But it will pursue an independent nuclear policy based on the following:
1. All options will be kept open and all steps will be taken that are necessary for the technological advancement of India’s civil and military nuclear programmes.
2. Maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing realities.
3. Seek cross-party consensus before agreeing to any control regime, including CTBT, FMCR and MTCR.
In view of the uncalled for and regrettable secrecy with which the Congress and the Prime Minister dealt with the India-US nuclear deal, the BJP proposes to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to make it mandatory for Government to seek Parliament’s approval/ratification by two-thirds majority before signing any bilateral or multilateral agreement that impinges on India’s strategic programmes, territorial integrity and economic interest.
Food security: We will make India hunger-free
The BJP views food security as integral to national security. The spectre of a looming food crisis haunts the developing world as never before. With the agriculture sector suffering on account of the Congress’ gross negligence, India faces a real threat of food scarcity. With India becoming a net importer of food under Congress rule, there is genuine concern about food security. Three factors have contributed to increasing food scarcity and the resultant sense of growing insecurity among the masses. First, the real income of workers and farmers has not kept pace with the rising cost of food, thus reducing their purchasing power. Second, the public distribution system has been severely crippled by the Congress-led Government which has been more interested in importing food grains and selling them at a high price than in securing the needs of the people. Third, with an additional 55 million people pushed below the poverty line over the last five years, there is widespread malnourishment. The economic recession has only worsened the situation and made it grimmer, especially for workers in the unorganised sector.
The BJP believes people have the right to food. To ensure food security for all and eliminate hunger, we will:
1. Provide 35 kg of rice or wheat every month to BPL families at Rs 2 per kg under an improved and expanded Antyodaya Anna Yojana. This will be available against ‘Food Coupons’ redeemable at both PDS and private outlets.
2. Allocate more funds for expanding, universalising and improving the functioning of the Public Distribution System.
3. Preventing families from slipping below the poverty line.
4. Setting up community kitchens in extremely impoverished areas with the help of NGOs through shared funding.
5. Aggressively addressing the problem of widespread malnutrition, especially by expanding the scope of the existing mid-day meal scheme.
6. Encouraging the production of cereals and discouraging the conversion of fertile farm land for dubious industrial projects.
7. Ensuring a sufficient level of food stocks are maintained to meet any exigencies due to possible global food crisis which could be severely debilitating and make imports prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.
Energy security: We will protect India from future crises
India cannot afford to lose any more time on securing its energy requirements. The Congress’s response to this issue has been episodic at best, often resulting in India failing to secure its energy interests even as other countries in the neighbourhood, most notably China, have spared no effort to single-mindedly pursue the goal of securing their energy needs for the present and future.
At present India is largely dependent on imported oil and gas to meet its energy demands, especially demand for power although our per capita power consumption is only a sixth of the world average. Sixty-seven per cent of our power supply comes from fossil fuels, of which 70 per cent is imported. With market fluctuation and manipulation, as it happened in 2008, this makes us vulnerable to external factors.
The BJP proposes to invest heavily in developing non-fossil fuel-based clean energy sources, especially for electricity production. Our goal will be to add at least 120,000 MW of power over the next five years, with 20 per cent of it coming from renewable sources. Similar emphasis will be placed on developing alternatives to petrol and diesel to lessen the burden of imported oil and gas as well as meet the challenges of climate change.
Adequate support will be extended for developing hybrid technologies and their applications. There will be special emphasis on developing renewal energy sources, especially solar energy, wind energy and run-on-the-river technology, and bio-fuel. Innovation will be rewarded.
Impetus will be provided for the production of non-conventional energy by enabling people and firms to bank it in the power grid and draw it at the time of their need.
India's BJP offers tax cuts, tough Pakistan policy
Fri Apr 3, 2009
NEW DELHI, April 3 (Reuters) - India's main Hindu-nationalist opposition party promised low taxes and interest rates to revive a slowing economy and a tough posture on Pakistan in an election manifesto on Friday aimed at boosting its poll ratings.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also promised to retrieve Indian money illegally stashed abroad, generate employment through massive infrastructure projects and give cheaper farm loans to cushion Indians from the global financial crisis.
It said it would cut housing interest rates, give tax exemption to citizens above the age of 60 and also waive personal income tax for hundreds of thousands of defence personnel and pensioners.
"We are giving a message to our voters that if you give us an opportunity then whatever we do we will do with honesty," the party's prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani said.
The BJP said India will resume peace talks with Pakistan only after Islamabad dismantled the "terrorist infrastructure" on its soil. "Without that there can be no comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan," spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The party has accused the ruling Congress party in the past of being soft on national security, sharpening the criticism in the wake of the Mumbai attacks in November blamed on a Pakistan-based guerrilla group.
The BJP-led opposition alliance trails in most opinion polls for the month-long election beginning on April 13 and is struggling to find allies in potentially swing states.