BJP makes $1.4trn infrastructure boost promise for election

Promises $300b for country’s farmers and rural development

Afp April 08, 2019
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures at an event to present the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) election manifesto in New Delhi on April 8, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday vowed to spend more than $1.4 trillion on new infrastructure over five years to create much-needed jobs and to pursue his nationalist agenda if he wins an election that starts this week.

Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also promised $300 billion for the country's hard-pressed farmers and rural development as it went all out to stop voters being tempted by opposition parties in the world's biggest election that runs from Thursday until May 19.

The BJP's big-spending manifesto was accompanied by promises to keep its Hindu bedrock behind the party that won a landslide victory in 2014 but has lost key state elections in recent months.

Modi remains very popular in India, but his government has come under fire over its handling of the fast-growing economy, particularly the failure to create jobs for the millions of youths coming on the labour market each year and the severe debts hitting farmers.

Facing criticism from the opposition Congress party, the BJP said more than $1.4 trillion would be spent during the next five-year term if it wins. It promised metro trains for 50 cities and to double the national highway network.

On top of the rural development, each farmer would get an annual handout of 6,000 rupees ($86). Thousands of farmers have killed themselves in recent years because of crippling debts.

The party set 75 targets -- divided between the economy and its longstanding aim to transform society -- to be reached by 2022 when India marks its 75th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule.

"It (the manifesto) is multi-layered and multi-dimensional because our society is very diverse. We can't have a one-size-fits-all kind of policy," Modi said.

While the BJP promises also included lower taxes for the middle-classes and more health facilities, the prime minister has built his reputation over the past five years as being a hawk on national security.


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