With the exception of FDI in multi-brand retail, there is not much of a difference between the economic agendas of the Congress and the BJP, the two major national parties locked in a fierce electoral battle to form the next government at the centre as is evident from the perusal of their respective manifestos.
Both parties have promised to promote growth, check inflation, create jobs, reform the taxation system and encourage an investor friendly environment, besides dealing effectively with fiscal issues.
The BJP, which released its manifesto today, in presence of PM candidate Narendra Modi, said it would welcome foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost the economy and create jobs.
"Barring the multi-brand retail sector, FDI will be allowed in sectors wherever needed for job and asset creation, infrastructure and acquisition of niche technology and specialised expertise," the BJP manifesto said.
The Congress has said the UPA's decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail would transform the agrarian economy and ensure better returns for farmers.
"Congress is committed to sustaining an investment climate which is welcoming and supportive of FDI," the party's manifesto said.
The issue of FDI in retail generated a lot of heat within and outside Parliament as both parties had entirely opposing stands. A fear was expressed that millions of small shopkeepers would lose their livelihood with the entry of global supermarket chains.
On tax reforms, the BJP and the Congress agreed to push the long-pending Goods and Services Tax (GST). Although the BJP manifesto is silent on the Direct Taxes Code (DTC), which was proposed to replace the Income-Tax Act of 1961, it promises rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime.
The Congress promised to enact GST as well as DTC within one year of assuming office. Both the tax reform bills have been pending in Parliament for want of consensus.
In an apparent reference to retrospective tax amendments, the BJP said the UPA government had unleashed "tax terrorism" and "uncertainty" and promised a non-adversarial and conducive tax environment.
The Congress has said it will "ensure that the unpredictable risk of retroactive taxation is avoided."
While the Congress promises to create 10 crore jobs in the next five years and take the economy back to an 8 per cent growth path, the BJP talked about generating employment and reviving the economy without getting into specific numbers.
Both parties pledged fiscal consolidation, banking sector reforms to deal with rising bad loans and encouraging savings.
On improving urban infrastructure, while the Congress seeks to set up 100 urban clusters, the BJP plans to create an equal number of new cities.