Now on to BJP manifesto: Jobs, roads and more; here’s what Modi will promise voters

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party will pledge to build new roads, ports and airports, create additional jobs and improve the ease of doing business in its manifesto, as it seeks to retain power in India’s general election that begins next week.

The BJP will also promise to take its flagship programs — providing toilets, electricity connections, houses, cooking gas, crop insurance and loans for small businesses — to more beneficiaries by allocating additional resources, said K. J. Alphons, a member of the party’s manifesto committee.

“The big thrust is going to be on innovation, education, ease of doing business, creating more jobs,’’ said Alphons, 65, minister for tourism, in an interview. “One of the focus areas will be providing basic infrastructure.’’

BJP, which is leading in opinion polls, is offering competitive giveaways to stave off a challenge from the main opposition Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, which promised in its manifesto to rid India of poverty by 2030 by providing income support to the poor, waiving farm loans and creating jobs.

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With elections poised to start in days, the BJP — which is yet to announce its manifesto — is banking on the support of around 220 million Indians it says have directly benefited from the government’s flagship programs, as well as a 750 billion rupees ($10.8 billion) income support program for small farmers and lower taxes for middle-class.

“Our big focus is on job creation. Our focus will be to allocate largest amount of money to poor people to build a basic foundation for their lives like houses, toilets, electricity and healthcare,” said Alphons. “Congress writes slogans every 10 years. But for the Modi government that’s not how it works. Every idea that we have taken up works.”

India improved its ranking by 23 spots in the World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business survey to 77th place among 190 countries. Still, Modi has been criticized by the opposition for not fulfilling his promise of creating 10 million jobs each year — a pledge that helped him win over India’s youth in the 2014 election. The ruling party denies this charge.

Elections will take place in seven phases between April 11 and May 19, with results to be announced on May 23.

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