New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised low taxes and interest rates and a tough national security law in an election manifesto on Friday aimed at boosting its poll ratings.
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The BJP also promised to retrieve Indian money illegally stashed abroad, generate employment through massive infrastructure projects and give cheaper farm loans.
It said it would bring down interest rates on housing loans to make urban housing affordable and give complete tax exemption to citizens above the age of 60.
“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-led opposition alliance trails in most opinion polls for the month-long election beginning on 13 April and is struggling to find allies in potentially swing states.
Its principal battle is with the ruling Congress-led coalition in the staggered election running from 16 April to 13 May.
Votes will be counted on 16 May and most analysts predict that smaller regional parties will hold the balance of power after the election.
Announcing a raft of populist measures, the BJP proposed farm loans at an interest rate of 4% and a ban on foreign direct investment in retail to help domestic trade.
It also threatened retaliation against moves by countries to discourage hiring of Indian workers abroad by imposing visa restrictions.
The party said it would “impose counter-veiling restrictions on foreign companies operating in India especially in the services sector, which on account of domestic laws of the respective countries, have introduced restrictions on hiring Indian employees with valid work visas.”
Economists may see the policy as a populist measure to win votes. Millions of Indians live in poverty.
Analysts earlier said that a BJP victory could swing India to a stronger pro-market agenda after several years of reform stagnation that have investors worried about India’s capacity to sustain growth.
The BJP also promised tough measures to protect India’s security as well as implement a long-standing promise to build a Hindu temple on a site revered by Hindus but disputed by the country’s Muslim minority.
It said it will construct the temple to Hindu warrior-god Ram in Ayodhya, the site of a 16th century mosque torn down by mobs in 1992 that led to deadly Hindu-Muslim riots and killed nearly 3,000 people.
Hindu hardliners say the mosque was built by Muslim invaders after destroying a Ram temple on the site of the Hindu god’s birth.
The BJP rose to prominence on the back of a Hindu revivalist campaign that sought the construction of the Ram temple, and analysts say by reviving the temple plan the BJP was aiming to garner Hindu votes.
The party also planned to revive a stringent security law that it enacted during its 1998-2004 rule that allowed for suspects to be held up to 90 days without being formally charged.
The BJP will take “strong steps against terrorists, cross-border or home-grown” and overhaul the intelligence system, the manifesto said.