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India’s prime ministerial frontrunner Modi pledges development in released manifesto


Modi addresses a gathering after releasing their election manifesto in New Delhi. Photo - Reuters

New Delhi: India's prime ministerial frontrunner Narendra Modi pledged good governance and development on Monday as he released his party's delayed manifesto that also included controversial nationalist policies.

Modi and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders unveiled their blueprint for government just hours after polls opened in the world's biggest election, which they are widely expected to win.

"Good governance and development (are) the two issues on which we are fighting these elections," Modi, the party's prime ministerial candidate, said at party headquarters in New Delhi.

The 52-page manifesto also pledges to revise the country's nuclear doctrine whose main principal is that New Delhi would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

A new government would revise the doctrine "to make it more relevant to challenges of current times" without giving details, the manifesto said. India carried out nuclear tests in 1998, and rival Pakistan quickly followed suit, before New Delhi drew up the policy.

It would also modernise the armed forces, "deal with cross border terrorism with a firm hand" and strengthen the country's borders.

Focusing on economic reforms, the document welcomed foreign direct investment by almost all companies — except by overseas supermarkets — in a bid to create much-needed jobs and kickstart the flagging economy.

The BJP pledged to simplify the taxation system, review labour laws, and focus on infrastructure such as new cities, high-speed railways, broadband Internet and build low-cost housing for families.

The right-wing party, voted out of power in 2004, also stuck to controversial nationalist ideals which worry religious minorities, particularly Muslims.

The party in 1992 supported the destruction of a mosque believed to have been built over Ram's birthplace in the town of Ayodhya in northern India. Resulting riots left more than 2,000 people dead.

The manifesto also promised BJP support to end the slaughter of cows, and to repeal special autonomous rights granted to Kashmir.

The BJP also reiterated its intention to draft a uniform civil code for all Indians, a deeply sensitive and controversial issue which has always divided the population along religious lines.

The Indian constitution allows the country's billion-plus citizens to be governed by their own religious laws, a privilege enjoyed by minorities such as Muslims and Christians.

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