On last Tuesday the BJP-Shiv Sena combine released their Assembly election manifesto at the Sena headquarters at Nariman Point, with pomp and visible bonhomie amongst the partners. The function was attended by all the top leaders including Shri Pramod Mahajan, Shri Uddhav Thackeray, Shri Gopinath Munde, Shri Narayan Rane, et al.
The first major lesson that the two partners learnt in the last general elections comes through in the manifesto declaration-that loans to farmers will be waived off in the event of a BJP-Sena government coming to power.
It brings forth two issues. One, the desperation in the farming community, what with repeated droughts affecting large swaths of land, and two, the economic imperatives of the measure. Even Union Minister for Agriculture, Shri Sharad Pawar, has blown hot and cold on the issue, stating that the waiver he has planned will only be for farmers from economically lower end, and not pervasive.
Farming Out Solutions: On the issue of agriculture, the manifesto is incisive and elaborate. BJP-Shiv Sena combine has emphasised on transforming agriculture with the assistance of biotechnology and managerial skills. That calls for some intensive investment strategies and out-of-the-box thinking.
Education for women: The combine has promised free education for women, which as things stand today, is a desperate measure in the light of the latest Census report. There is almost political unanimity on the issue. Innovative thinking has made the BJP-Shiv Sena manifesto emphasise on reservation of jobs for women.
Power play: Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray had earlier promised farmers in the state free power for irrigation, the manifesto prominently displaying that assurance. Again the experience of the states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu will reflect on the state'scapability to keep the promise. Already the new regulatory authority-MERC has made it difficult for any arbitrary decision making in this context.
The vachan nama, as Shri Mahajan called it during the press conference, stated that Savarkar Jyot will be built at several places, even while a Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial will be established at Raigad fort. That could assuage the feelings of a number of people in the state. Going by the sensitivity of the Savarkar issue, many would even vote for BJP-Shiv Sena on this single issue-Maharashtrians are not known to be pushovers; they take offence at any humiliating reference made to their popular leaders.
The manifesto is only indicative and not a blueprint for policy-making as is evident from Shri Mahajan'sstatement that ??it is only a broad framework of policies? details will be filled in after the poll results are out (that is when the new government is sworn in)??. Shri Thackeray had earlier rephrased the punchline to ?Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Kamgaar?.