Politicians everywhere cannot be expected to spell out in great detail their plans and programmes. That is best left to the party manifestoes. But, again, manifestoes too provide a broad idea about the direction and thrust of a party’s policies and not the nitty-gritty. That task is best left to the experts, who can be relied upon to flesh out the bare shell of a party’s broad-brush policy strokes. In view of the foregoing, the enunciation of the BJP’s policy preferences and programmes at the party’s two-day national meeting in New Delhi by Narendra Modi, its prime ministerial candidate, ought to be welcome. He went quite far in detailing the economic and social policies of the party, though a good part of his 75-minute address was also devoted to taking potshots at the big two of the Congress Party. This was only to be expected, given that a rattled Congress has stepped up the vitriolic against its chief bugbear. Rahul Gandhi’s spirited speech at the party’s session last week in New Delhi could barely conceal the threat it faces from a Modi-led BJP, though he may have personally slunk away from frontally accepting his challenge. He took a dig at the Gandhi scion, referring to him as a `tape recorder’ and counterpoising his own track record in Gujarat against him. Even the obnoxiousness of Mani Shankar Aiyar, who unashamedly genuflects at the door of 10, Janpath while abusing everyone else in the Congress Party and outside, could not hide his fear of Modi, revealing in the process his elitist mindset. If and when a humble teaseller ascends the prime ministerial ‘gaddi’, it would be a high point of the nascent Indian democracy. Congress leaders’ Pavlovian reflexes to sing hallelujah to the Dynasty, with or without reason, mostly without reason, often gets the better of common sense, thus exposing them to much public ridicule and scorn. Aiyar, with his most distasteful remark might have attracted publicity, but he also brought on himself much public odium. Modi, on his part, responded to the ugly remark by Aiyar in his own inimitable style. But what he said about the economic path the country should take was far more substantive and relevant. Outlining his vision of India, he set out to focus on economic revival, committing to boost agriculture, manufacturing, employment, etc. A price stabilisation fund to insulate the aam aadmi against sudden spurt in prices of everyday goods was proposed. If Vajpayee implemented the golden quadrilateral of first-rate roads crisscrossing the four corners of the country, Modi has proposed a golden quadrilateral of superfast trains. He undertook to develop a hundred new cities, a welcome idea, given the fast-paced urbanisation happening all over the country. His stress on five Ts, that is, talent, tradition, trade, tourism and technology, was timely, in view of our young demographic profile, with nearly two-thirds of the population below the age of 35. He sought to allay the misgivings of the people that he was a control freak, emphasising that the states would be equal partners of the centre in working for the progress of the country. Along with his five Ts, seven points in his rainbow strategy included agriculture-animal husbandry, women power, natural resources, youth power, natural resources, vibrant democracy and knowledge. He also committed to fulfil the unfinished Vajpayee project of river-linking and promised to set up IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs in every state.
On the negative side, he too failed to resist the temptation to widen the entitlement net, promising dole to at least one member of every rural family and also talked of enshrining the right to health. Calling himself a `sevak’, he sought sixty months to serve the people, saying that thus far, they had had rulers for sixty years. On the whole, his speech achieved two clear objectives. One, it answered critics who said he failed to spell out his economic and social philosophy. He did. And he steered clear of all divisive issues. Two, it effectively neutralised the noise over the emergence of the AAP in Delhi and about Rahul Gandhi’s performance at the AICC session. The fact that the entire top brass of the BJP was on the dais and lustily endorsed Modi should clear all doubts about the lack of unity in the party over his prime ministerial candidature.