No manifesto. But BJP takes aim at Virbhadra with Himachal vision document
Deviating from the norm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal Pradesh has come out with a 'Vision Document' instead of a manifesto for the forthcoming Assembly elections.
The document touched a raw nerve for Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as the BJP announced setting up projects named after the victims of two of the most heinous crimes in the state. Public outburst over these two crimes had put the Congress government on the back foot.
The document calls for starting a 'Gudiya Yojana', under which women police stations and a 24x7 helpline would be set up to ensure women's safety in the state.
Gudiya was the name given by the agitated masses to the school girl who was raped and murdered in the Kotkhai region of the state earlier this year. The protests continued for days together and to make matters worse, Virbhadra came out with 'insensitive' statements on the issue. These statements are now coming back to haunt the Congress as the Opposition is playing it up again and again.
The matter is now being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that has arrested the entire Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police that was given the task earlier. The arrests have been made in the case pertaining to the custodial death of one of the accused in Gudiya case.
The BJP also wants to start a 24-hour 'Hoshiyar Helpline' in the office of the chief minister to tackle the menace of the timber and mining mafia active in the state. Hoshiyar Singh was the name of the forest guard who was allegedly murdered by the timber mafia in Mandi district. His death was initially portrayed as a suicide and had also sparked off major protests in the hills. This case too is being probed by the CBI.
Both these cases were the biggest dampeners on the Congress regime in the state and unfortunately for the party, both took place in the poll year and remain fresh in public memory.
BJP is also playing up another emotive issue – the gruesome kidnapping and killing of a two-year-old boy Yug. This boy was kidnapped in 2014 and his skeletal remains were discovered from a water tank in 2016 leading to a public outrage.
The BJP has been looking desperately for the poll issues as its calculations over seeking votes in the name of PM Narendra Modi have gone awry in the face of the 'Modi wave' fizzling out. The reality of demonetisation and shoddy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has hit the people really hard in the state.
The anti-corruption plank of the party too is not giving the desired results with people being miffed over the BJP bringing in former telecom minister Sukh Ram's son and a minister from Virbhadra's cabinet, Anil Sharma, into the party fold and fielding him from Mandi. The BJP has been trying hard to sell the idea that Anil has had a clean record.
The BJP has also promised to set up 'Major Somnath Vahini' comprising of ex-servicemen to tackle instances of theft, robbery and the drug menace. This initiative has been proposed in the memory of India's first Param Vir Chakra recipient Major Somnath Sharma who was from Kangra district.
Himachal has a large number of both surviving as well as ex-servicemen in the armed forces and this proposal will hopefully play well with the families and get BJP the support they need.
Releasing the Vision Document in Shimla on Sunday evening, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley used the occasion to label the Virbhadra regime as a 'zero integrity quotient government'.
“It has been a government whose leadership has been perpetually under siege,” he said and added that this was the regime of a wasted opportunity that did not deliver despite getting maximum support from the Centre.
Jaitley denied all allegations that the cases against Virbhadra Singh have been initiated at his behest. He said all the cases were made on the basis of documents procured by the agencies in 2012 when the UPA government was in power.
Among the doles that the BJP has promised voters are – the development of a religious tourism circuit under which various temples would be linked to a Devbhoomi Darshan Circuit.
The party has also promised to give tablets and laptops to college students along with 1 GB data every month besides making government educational institutions free Wi-Fi zones. It has also promised the setting up of a horticulture university and organising annual job fairs in every district.
On the health front, the party intends to set up hospitals with facilities for diagnosis and treatment in all the districts and also introducing a heli-ambulance service in the remote areas.
The BJP has promised to double the income of farmers and horticulturists by 2022 and bring them under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
It has stated that the compensation for the land acquired from farmers would be raised to four times its price instead of the present two times that the farmers are getting.
The party has also promised that its MLAs would declare their assets in public with a view to ensure transparency.
The BJP's decision not to bring out a manifesto and instead go n for a Vision Document has come under severe criticism from the Left. The CPM, which is contesting 21 seats out of 68 in the state, said – “The vision of Jawahar Lal Nehru too was superb, but the very fact of not bringing in a manifesto exhibits that they do not want to do anything achievable. Vision documents are just wish lists.”
Jaitley, however, said it is the choice of a party whether it wants to go in for a manifesto or bring out a vision document.