The National Democratic Alliance's (NDA's) agenda for governance promises a scheme of direct cash transfers, on the basis of a national identity card that will put money directly in the hands of beneficiaries, bypassing panchayats and food-for-work programmes.
The agenda, likely to be unveiled early next month, will put together best practices and successes of the previous NDA governments, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and will have governance as its biggest idea.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the biggest constituent of the alliance, has suggested its core area of focus will be internal security. The BJP manifesto is being prepared by former Union minister Murali Manohar Joshi, while the NDA manifesto has been prepared by senior BJP leader and former Union minister Jaswant Singh.
Partners of the NDA have already endorsed the draft.
The agenda says the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA's) mishandling of the economy has not just brought upon the spectre of inflation, and now deflation, but has also put serious question marks on job security. The government has gone through the entire spectrum of monetary measures such as manipulation of the cash reserve ration (CRR), repo and reverse repo rates but to little avail, it says.
The NDA agenda, however, promises significant direct government intervention. It also speaks of the serious need for food security against the background of farmer suicides, hunger as well as food riots in some states.
The agenda further says that if voted to power, the NDA will ensure availability of foodgrain by putting a stop to erratic price movement and volatility in the food market.
To put the economy back on the rails, the NDA's prescription is no different from that of the Left: significant public sector investments especially in the infrastructure sector, easing credit availability and encouraging demand for goods, services and assets. However, it differs from the Left by promising 'big-ticket' reforms to improve productivity and capital formation.
Interestingly, a whole section of the NDA agenda focuses on the youth, though the alliance's prime minsierial choice, LK Advani, is in his eighties. There is no mention of reforming education, especially higher education.
Considerable attention has been paid to defence, including a promise about what the NDA won't do: equalisation of the armed forces with the civil services. The alliance promises quick purchase of weapons and weapon systems.
On internal security, the alliance promises a thorough overhaul of the criminal justice system and promises that all states will have uniform anti-terror laws.
The NDA commits itself to close relations with the US and rejects the narrow prism of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal alone to view relations with the country. The agenda says there is enough space for India and China to grow together while resolving the boundary question amicably. This is in direct contrast to the confidence that India shared with the US in a letter to former president Bill Clinton soon after testing the nuclear weapon -- that it had conducted the tests because of strategic worries about the rise of China.