Just 10 days before the first phase of Gujarat's elections, chief minister Narendra Modi released an ambitious BJP poll manifesto, promising five million new houses, drinking water and insurance cover for all. Modi also promised to address the issues facing the "neo-middle class", which has risen above the poverty line but cannot yet be categorised as middle class, to enable it reap the benefits of government's welfare schemes.
The manifesto pledged to strengthen agricultural infrastructure and said, if voted to power again, the government would bear 3% of the 7% interest paid by farmers who took agricultural loans.
“Due to development in Gujarat in the last 10 years, there has been substantial rise in this neo-middle class. We want to address their issues. We will form a committee to define this neo middle class. We will try to give them benefits of government schemes," Modi told reporters after releasing the manifesto.
In an apparent bid to counter the Congress' poll assurance of providing land and houses at affordable rates to rural and urban poor respectively, the BJP manifesto said 50 lakh new houses would be constructed for them over the next five years.
Congress' promised scheme of low-cost housing had drawn huge response from the people with thousands queueing p in urban and rural areas to get the forms distributed by the party.
Laying emphasis on irrigation and issues related to farmers, the document said 16 lakh hectares of farm land would be brought under irrigation over the next five years and the government would expedite electricity connections.
"Small and marginal farmers pay 7%interest on agricultural loans taken from cooperative organisations. The government will share their burden by paying 3% interest so that the farmers have to pay only the remaining 4%," the manifesto said.
To give a fresh impetus to the agriculture sector, Modi said cold storage facilities and agro-processing units would be set up in every district.
Claiming that annual Vibrant Gujarat Summits aimed at attracting investment for industries were a big success, Modi said now other states were also organising such events.
"Now we will organise a bi-annual world agriculture fare to help farmers learn new technology," Modi said reaching out to the state's large farming community. The BJP manifesto also promised to increase drinking water availability and to double power generation to 30,000 MW. Modi said a new policy will be formulated for the youth with emphasis on "sports, employment and employability"