As promised in our Election Manifesto and the National Agenda for Governance, the Government, firm in the belief that a resurgent India must rest on the foundation of rural prosperity, has shifted the focus of development by investing in agriculture and rural development.
Marking an all-time record, Plan outlay on agriculture has been raised by 58 per cent. Rural development expenditure has gone up by 27 per cent and Plan expenditure by 19 per cent, a record rise in this last decade.
Against the backdrop of debt-ridden farmers committing suicide during Congress and Congress-backed UF years, an innovative programme to protect farmers who default in debt-repayment and issue them with Kisan Credit Cards for farm inputs has been adopted. The scope of crop insurance has been expanded to cover more areas and new crops. Crucial farm subsidies like that on urea have been retained.
After the initial, and entirely misplaced, euphoria in the early days of IMF-dictated reforms during Congress rule, Indian industry was forced into virtual recession. The unfair competition resulting from liberal imports, the absence of a level playing field and falling demand had all combined to deliver a blow to our domestic industry.
Our Government has initiated several remedial measures to give an impetus to industrial growth and protect domestic industry, especially the small scale sector. These steps have begun to show results and India is well on the road to rapid industrial economic recovery.
We are fully conscious of the hardship caused to the common man because of the rise in the prices of certain essential commodities and vegetables. Since the issue involves the masses, we would like to highlight certain facts for a better understanding of the situation.
The shortage and price hike of some essential commodities and vegetables in the past few months have been caused by the systematic neglect of agriculture by previous Governments over the past two decades. The BJP-led Government inherited a dismal situation whereby the foreign trade in many items of common consumption were the monopoly of institutions like NAFED which ran as extension counters of the Congress. The BJP-led Government has now taken steps to dismantle these barriers to cheap and ready availability of foodstuff. These steps will benefit both farmers and consumers.
Fact one: Last year's agricultural production had been wrongly over-estimated by the previous regime. The actual figures show that oilseed production is lower by 27 lakh tonnes, pulses by 11 lakh tonnes and wheat by 32 lakh tonnes.
Fact two: The steep rise in potato and onion prices is directly linked to erratic weather conditions that affected both these crops. Intense heat-wave conditions in May-June and unseasonal heavy rains that came after the monsoon have contributed to a sharp fall in onion and potato production.
Fact three: The Congress-backed UF years' fiscal deficit has contributed to the spurt in inflation-from the Budget target of 4.6 per cent of the GDP, it was allowed to go up to 6.1 per cent in 1997-98. In 1993-94, when the Congress was in power, it had allowed fiscal deficit to go up to 7.4 per cent from 4.6 per cent of the GDP, pushing up inflation to 10.9 per cent.
The Congress cannot conveniently forget the inflationary days of skyrocketing prices when it was in power.
Some of the steps taken by the BJP-led Government to bring the situation under control are: RBI has been instructed to control money supply; Liberal import of edible oils, pulses and onions has been allowed; Duty on edible oils has been reduced to 15 per cent from 25 per cent; Import of onions has been placed under the OGL; No registration is required for the import of pulses; and, Separately, the BJP Government in Delhi has taken steps to import and distribute onions at a subsidised price.
For us in the BJP, social justice does not mean aggravation of social tensions or creation of sectional vote banks. We believe that social justice transcends caste, class and gender and is a prerequisite for accomplishing the task of building an integrated and egalitarian society free of discrimination in any form. We aspire for a forward-looking, forward-moving India; we are committed to a society built on opportunity, optimism and oneness.
To ensure a fair deal for all, to check the distortions of an economy driven by market forces, we believe that the state must play an active, interventionist role. Ever since 1991 when, during Congress rule, economic liberalisation gathered speed, public investment in the social sector had registered a steep decline. Our Government has not only halted the decline but also reversed the trend by investing heavily in education, health and drinking water.
The BJP-led Government has raised the budgetary allocation for education by nearly 50 per cent and is committed to eradication of illiteracy, universalisation of elementary education and making primary education free and compulsory.
A new scheme has been introduced for gender equity by providing free education for girls up to college level. Starting next academic year, girls will be provided with free textbooks up to primary level. To economically empower women, innovative insurance policies have been introduced.
We believe that crimes against women should be dealt with a firm hand. Bearing this in mind, our Government is working on a new concept in policing. We have also proposed amendment of the law to provide for capital punishment to rapists. By increasing the overall allocation for social welfare by 90% and investing in human resource development, we have ensured an active role for the state in helping the largest number of our citizens to realise their potential. This, for us, is the ultimate test of justice for all.
An unfortunate fallout of Congress rule at the Centre and in the States is the erosion of people's faith in politicians and politics. This is because of the "suitcase culture" popularised by the Congress whenever and wherever it has been in power.
The Congress is singularly to blame for the sordid culture of loot, bribery and corruption that has made people cynical and contributed to their economic misery.
So enamoured is the Congress of this sordid culture that in States where it is not in power, it joins hands with friends like Laloo Prasad Yadav. Let us not forget that in the last Congress regime at the Centre, rare was the Congress Minister not tainted by corruption. Let us not ignore the fact that the present Congress leadership is part and parcel of the same tainted lot. During our decades in Opposition, we were in the forefront of the crusade against corruption. Now that we are in power, we have acted swiftly to wipe out this curse from Indian public life.
The Lokpal Bill introduced by our Government seeks to provide ways and means to bring corrupt politicians to heel. Indeed, such is our adherence to probity in public life, the Prime Minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal. On the other hand, the Congress subscribes to the view that corruption is to be condoned, not punished. So much so when the Lokayukt held Congress Ministers in Madhya Pradesh guilty of corruption, the Congress protected its corrupt Ministers. When the Governor sanctioned prosecution against some of them, the Governor was accused of political bias!
This is the difference between us and them.
The bogus slogan of the pseudo-secularists, especially the Congress, that secularism would be endangered if the BJP came to power, has been thoroughly exposed. In these eight months there has not been a single incident of communal violence. Compare this record with the years of Congress rule marked by terrible rioting and strife.
We have conclusively demonstrated our commitment to true secularism-sarva dharma samabhava-as distinct from the pseudo-secularism practised by the Congress and its friends-minorityism and vote-bank politics. We promised a riot-free society and we have kept our promise.
The Congress today is a rootless organisation; its leadership is mentally distanced from the culture and traditions of India. Hence the Congress' objection, along with other pseudo-secularists of the Marxist and Laloo Prasad Yadav variety, to something as central to Indian culture as Saraswati Vandana.
This is not entirely surprising. After all, the rallying cry of "Vande Mataram" that had energised Congress workers during the freedom struggle, became anathema to the Congress in the "secular" dispensation after Independence.
There was a time when Congress and Congressmen could claim of being noble, virtuous and selfless. But today's Congress is not even a pale shadow of that Congress, nor can today's Congressmen claim to be virtuous and selfless.
The Congress today is a party of opportunists, time-servers and history-sheeters. It has been demonstrated categorically that the Congress has become a convenient cover for criminals indulging in extortion, murder, rape and terrorism.
Be it at the Centre or in the States, whenever and wherever the Congress has been in power, it has worked against the people's interests, against democracy's interests and against the nation's interests. The only "interests" that drive the Congress today are those of its leaders. In a democracy, no party has the "natural right" to rule. Yet the Congress claims this right, primarily because the Congress cannot look beyond one family and shamelessly subscribes to "dynastic rule" which militates against all canons of democracy.
It is laughable that the Congress, which not many years ago banned Tagore's stirring line, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high", should today pretend to be a protector of Indian democracy.
Indeed, the Congress is the fountainhead of all that is venal in Indian politics-corruption, criminalisation, casteism and communalism.
From compromising national security by taking bribes in the Bofors field-gun deal to the Rs. 8,000-crore banking scam, from awarding multi-crore contracts to Italian middlemen like Ottavio Quattrochi to using wheeler-dealers like Chandraswami for framing Opposition politicians, from patronising criminals and mafia dons like Sushil Sharma, Daud Ibrahim and Romesh Sharma to perpetrating pogroms like the massacre of Sikhs, from selling out to IMF and World Bank to allowing fly-by-night foreign operators to run amok, from failing to prevent the international terrorist conspiracy to succeed on Indian soil to encouraging rank communalism in the guise of 'secularism', Congress has done it all.
Nobody is aware of Congress' abysmal record more than the Congress itself. Despondent, the party cannot think positively; frustrated, it cannot think constructively; tainted, it cannot think of probity.
The Congress has nothing new or positive to offer. It has no vision or clarity. It has no constructive programme. Steeped in cynicism, it merely seeks power. Power, for Congress, means pelf. Congress is no longer an alternative; it is fast becoming a footnote in India's post-Independence history.
In sharp contrast to the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party can justifiably-and proudly-claim to be a better choice for the noble task of governance. We articulate the people's aspirations; we represent the heartbeat of every patriotic Indian. Be it during the eight months we have been in power at the Centre, the five years we have been in power in Delhi and Rajasthan and the five years we have played the role of an alert Opposition in Madhya Pradesh, we have demonstrated that ours is a party that can boast of:
Our opponents, be it the Congress or the so-called "Third Front" that exists in the imagination of the Mulayam - Surjeet - Laloo trio, are morally too decrepit and politically too discredited to be entrusted with the sacred task of governance. The alternative they have on offer is an alarming and frightening combination of Congress' Mafia Raj and Laloo's Jungle Raj.
The Congress and its friends cannot be trusted with positions of power and authority as that would mean going back to the despairing days of malgovernance and misrule, of procrastination and indecisiveness; of loot and plunder.
We seek a positive mandate in the November polls for our clarity of vision and decisiveness. We seek a mandate for unalloyed nationalism and uncompromising patriotism. We seek a mandate for economic development and social progress. We seek a mandate for probity and integrity.
We seek an endorsement of our belief that we are best suited to be given the responsibility of governing Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, and playing an effective role in Mizoram.