Modi’s election manifestos: shifts between 2014 and 2019

Elections Political leadership Political campaigns Community participation India

Prime Minister Modi’s 2019 Manifesto may be read as a report of his government’s progress, or progress yet to be made. It is effectively a continuation of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2014 Manifesto promises, communicated for the current election in practical terms rather than the earlier visionary language of persuasion.

The Preface to the BJP’s 2014 Manifesto flagged the need to arrive at a consensus about the ‘“Idea” of India … in consonance with the seekings and preferences of the Indian people’ (p.2, English version). Modi’s populism, short of Hinduisation, raised uncomfortable questions for minorities that were confirmed to some extent in his ongoing amendments to the Citizenship Act. The 2019 Manifesto steers away from promoting ideas of Hinduisation except in brief and separated references, which are discussed below. This is a further step away from the political platform that was employed for the 1996 General Election, in which Hindu nationalist philosophy with roots in pre-independence right-wing political thinking saw the BJP win government from the Congress Party. Advocating the unity and integrity of India, while painting politically mobilised groups as threatening, the BJP motivated Hindus to respond to the party’s call. Interestingly, the far-right wing and militant RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) is now, in its modern form, the self-styled cultural wing of the BJP, Modi’s party.

The Constitution of India, which Modi referred to in 2014 as the ‘only sacred document’, sets out on the first page of its Preamble a resolution that commits the people of India to a ‘Sovereign socialist secular democratic republic’ that ‘secures’ for all its citizens ‘justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality … and fraternity….’[1] The Constitution is mentioned in the 2019 Manifesto in what is arguably a Hinduisation context, which is also discussed in this report.

Key points:

  • An idealistic and ambitious 2014 Manifesto may be seen in 2019 as a report on the government’s progress and its intention to move forward, presented as an uninterrupted journey.
  • While reflections on a Hindu India are embedded in Modi’s 2019 Manifesto, it is a further step away from the Hindu nationalism of earlier election programmes.
  • Major policy areas in Modi’s domestic agenda are outlined, rebadged and more ambitious, including education, youth upskilling and supporting farm enterprises.
  • The intention and benefits of demonetisation are presented in the 2019 Manifesto and further taxation reform is promised.
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