New Delhi: Narendra Modi on Sunday unveiled his development and economic vision for India, promising a number of measures from massive urbanization and price control to women’s empowerment and Dalit welfare if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the national election.
Analysts dubbed his vision a development-plus model that seeks to expand on Modi’s reputation for development in Gujarat to include caste, poverty and issues that are core to the BJP’s ideology.
Modi’s vision, outlined Sunday at an address to a huge crowd of BJP cadre, includes the creation of 100 new, so-called smart cities; bringing premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to every state; job creation; a development model for farmers; water grids; national optical fibre networks; and the introduction of bullet trains as part of a much-needed modernization of the Indian Railways.
Unveiling the BJP’s electoral strategy for the Lok Sabha election due by May, Modi, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, said its governance model will be built around talent, tradition, tourism, trade and technology.
“We have to develop brand India by focusing on 5Ts—talent, tradition, tourism, trade and technology. We can use them to build the brand of the country because I feel terrorism divides but tourism unites,” Modi said on the final day of the BJP’s three-day national executive and council meet in Delhi.
In potentially his last formal address to party members before the election, Modi said many see urbanization in the country as a challenge instead of as an opportunity.
“Why can’t we build 100 specialised cities, smart cities like health cities, sports city and twin cities?” he asked.
On education, Modi said there could be no compromise. “We can develop IITs, IIMs and AIIMs in every state of the country,” he said.
The BJP, if it forms the government, will address India’s huge unemployment problem by setting up centres of excellence that will provide skill development opportunities for the youth, he added.
On economic and social empowerment of women, Modi said women should be seen as nation builders and not mere homemakers, and that there is a need to ensure their dignity and safety.
“Women’s security is a major issue. We must ensure dignity of women. We must start a mission: beti bachao, beti padhao (save girl child, educate girl child),” Modi said.
On his development model for farmers, Modi said the BJP will collect real-time data on agriculture on the basis of sowing of crops and produce to enable accurate decisions on exports and imports and a check on price rise.
“BJP will create price stabilization fund so that farmers are not exploited and national agriculture markets will be created,” he said.
Taking care to address a key electoral constituency that the BJP is trying to gain a hold of, Modi said good governance should ensure that the poor and Dalits are not exploited.
Good governance must be used also to build infrastructure, gas grids and optical fibre networks, and thought should be given to modernization of the railways, he said. A network for bullet trains that travel at high speeds would be developed by the time India completes 75 years of independence in 2022, Modi said.
He also mentioned two pet visions of the BJP—interlinking of rivers, and recovering unaccounted money stashed away in bank accounts abroad. “If need be, we will amend the law and also set up a task force for bringing back the money,” Modi said.
Congress vice-president and campaign chief Rahul Gandhi, in his blueprint for the party that he outlined on Friday, focused on women, youth and the poor, but has yet to give a more elaborate development vision for the country.
The Congress, after two successive terms in government by dint of leading the United Progressive Alliance, faces charges of corruption and criticism for its handling of the economy, allowing for Modi to emerge as a frontrunner to be prime minister and the Aam Aadmi Party to rise as a political force after it trounced the Congress in the recent Delhi elections based on its focus on corruption-free politics and administration.
Modi, as Gujarat chief minister for three successive terms, has built for himself a reputation as a leader focused on urban development and capable of attracting investors, while drawing criticism that his governance model is not inclusive.
Political experts say Modi with his vision for the BJP effectively launched a “development-plus model” to try to convince people of all sections vote for him.
“Modi realizes that development alone is not complete but it is the development-plus model which is required because it includes development, caste, backward politics and core issues of BJP,” said Badri Narayan, an Allahabad-based political analyst.
Modi is trying to revive mass mobilization techniques earlier used in Indian politics by asking the party cadre to collect funds from 100 million people, Narayan said. “It is a mass contact movement which Modi is trying to revive and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has used the same model.”
Modi in his address also took a swipe at the Congress for not announcing Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate. Modi said Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul had a “feudal mindset” and it was below their dignity to contest against a tea vendor from a backward background, referring to himself. Modi has claimed he sold tea as a young adult.
“Congress is running away from contest because defeat in election is visible. They don’t want to announce Rahul Gandhi as their prime ministerial candidate because a mother cannot sacrifice her son when defeat is imminent. It is below their dignity to contest against a chaiwallah (tea seller),” said Modi.
PTI contributed to the story.