India’s main opposition party, which leads in opinion polls ahead of federal elections, promised to bring down one of Asia’s fastest inflation rates and expedite foreign investment in most sectors except for multibrand retail.
Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said in its campaign manifesto today it would create a price stabilization fund and seek to “rationalize” interest rates for manufacturing. The Hindu nationalist organization also said it would try to build a temple on a disputed site, instill legal protections for cows and pass a uniform civil code -- a step resisted in the past by the country’s religious minorities.
“The BJP will be voted to power,” Modi told reporters today in New Delhi. “Over the next 60 months, we will deliver a government that will reverse the growth slowdown and fulfill the desires and aspirations of Indians.”
Opinion polls show Modi’s BJP will emerge as the largest party while falling short of a parliamentary majority as voters punish the ruling Congress party for rising vegetable prices, graft scandals and the slowest economic growth in a decade. Voting started today in the election and will continue through May 12, with all ballots counted on May 16.
“We will bring back credibility and trust in government, re-sowing confidence in the India story domestically as well as internationally,” the manifesto said. “Through consistent, long-term policies, we will not just spur the process of economic growth, but also ensure that it is stable as well as balanced.”
The party said it would look to set up a national agricultural market and take action against hoarders to bring down inflation. It plans to give more power to states, create consensus to implement a goods and services tax and develop labor-intensive manufacturing.
The ruling Congress party, which is campaigning on the party’s record of spending on programs ranging from cheap food to guaranteed work in rural areas, promised in its manifesto to give poorer voters a legal right to health care and housing. Congress President Sonia Gandhi predicted her party would return to power because opinion polls are unreliable.
Modi has promoted his image as a magnet for investment and a record of stronger-than-average growth in the western state of Gujarat, which he’s ruled since 2001. The state accounts for a quarter of India’s exports and has attracted investment from companies such as Ford Motor Co. (F:US) and Reliance Industries Ltd.
Modi has been attacked by opponents for failing to control 2002 riots in Gujarat. After Muslims set fire to a train, killing Hindu activists, ensuing riots killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, according to a government report by Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice Akshay Mehta.
Human rights groups including the Concerned Citizens Tribunal say Modi failed to control the mob. Modi denies wrongdoing and a panel appointed by India’s Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence that his decisions prevented victims from receiving help.
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