New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will speed up foreign investment projects in India if it wins a general election, with business hit by red tape, land protests and lack of government help, party president Rajnath Singh said.
The measure is part of the BJP’s election manifesto to be unveiled this week as the party and its allies battle against a left-of-centre Congress government weeks before an April/May general election.
Some of India’s biggest investments projects, including a $12 billion steel plant by South Korea’s POSCO and an alumina refinery by Britain’s Vedanta Resources Plc, have been held up for years due to land protests and legal wrangles.
Indian companies have also suffered. Tata Motors Ltd was forced to move its factory to build the Nano car, hailed as the world’s cheapest, after land protests.
“We will push for heavy investments in mega projects, so that we can save India from the effects of recession,” Singh, said in an interview, referring to these projects in eastern India.
“The present government lacks will power, direction and an interest to see what is best for India and that is why you see so many projects in the east stalled.”
The BJP rose to prominence in the early 1990s on the back of a Hindu revivalist movement and ruled from 1998 to 2004 promoting economic reforms and gaining a reputation as being pro-business.
While its manifesto is yet to be released, Singh said the BJP would be more open to foreign investment than Congress, which was unable to pass major economic reforms and open the economy further up globally due to opposition from leftist allies.
Singh said his party would also focus on agriculture, putting more money in the pockets of farmers. More than half of India’s 1.1 billion population live in villages.
“We would like to increase the purchasing capacity of farmers, they are the biggest consumer and producer and we would like to see them grow,” he said.
When in power, the BJP commissioned an $8 billion highways project. It also promoted privatisation.
Since its 2004 election win, Congress has put privatisation on hold, and highways have been hampered by a lack of finance.
“The government has simply undone what we had achieved in the last few years,” Singh said. “We would like to see more foreign investments flow into the country, but we will take precautions to safeguard the country’s economic autonomy,” he said.
In theory, the BJP should do well in the election, given a slowing economy that has claimed millions of jobs and security worries highlighted by the Mumbai attacks in November when at least 166 people were killed by militant gunmen.
Incumbents also traditionally fare badly in Indian elections.
But the BJP has struggled to convince many regional parties it is a viable alternative to Congress. Its platform of stronger security and calls for Hindu revivalism have not resonated with voters, many analysts say.
The BJP, which for years has advocated a stronger strategic relationship with the United States, said it would use its leverage with the United States to pressure Pakistan to bring the planners behind the Mumbai attacks to justice.
Singh said the BJP would urge Washington to cut financial aid to Pakistan. But he said a BJP government would be willing to give military aid to Islamabad to tackle militancy.
“Pakistan should clear up the mess, and if required Indian will provide military assistance to help them,” Singh said.