In the Bhartiya Janata Party's 1998 manifesto, Hindutva showed up in the very first chapter as one of its ideological pillars. In 2004, as the ‘India Shining’ BJP was hoping to return to power, Hindutva was mentioned as the basis of the party’s national identity. A decade later, the BJP’s manifesto for the upcoming 2014 elections doesn’t use the word Hindutva even once. In fact, the only reference to ‘Hindu’ at all comes in the form of a promise that India will remain a refuge for "persecuted Hindus."

Instead, the document, drafted by a committee headed by former minister Murli Manohar Joshi and then delayed until the first day of elections, begins on a different note altogether. It quotes the 11th century scholar Said Al Andalusi’s Tabaqat al-Umm on India’s advances in the realm of knowledge: "The first nation to have cultivated science is India...India is known for wisdom of its people."

The message that the BJP is trying to drive home couldn’t be more obvious. Aside from essentially reproducing its ‘Cultural Heritage’ page from the 2009 manifesto — with references to the Ram Mandir, Ram Setu, the Ganga and the ‘Cow and its Progeny’ — this year’s document tries to focus entirely on development, even if what some of the BJP’s top leaders are saying on the ground is entirely different.

India First 2.0

There was a time when the the BJP was proud to be a nationalist party, not just culturally but economically too, under the oft-repeated mantra ‘India First.’

This is how the slogan was described in the 1998 manifesto:

“Swadeshi simply means ‘India First’... The broad agenda of the BJP will be guided by Swadeshi or economic nationalism. The fundamental approach of the BJP is that it is imperative to develop a collective national will and confidence that ‘India shall be built by Indians.’”

This time around, however, ‘India First’ has been given a bit of a spin, with no more talk about economic self-reliance (read: protectionism). “Simply speaking, 'India First' puts national interest first while taking any decision or step both by Governments and citizens.” The BJP even seems to manage a dig at its on past insistence on providing the country with 'Ram' Rajya.

“For BJP, the only philosophy and religion of a Government should be India First.
the only epic of a Government should be India's Constitution”

Rights from the Right

The Congress might have set the bar high with 58 mentions of ‘rights’ in its manifesto, but the BJP doesn’t seem to without its own emphasis on entitlement-based policies. The party finds convergence with its arch-enemy in ensuring the implementation of two of the landmark pieces of legislation brought in by the United Progressive Alliance over the last decade.

“BJP has always held that 'universal food security' is integral to national security. BJP will take steps to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach the common man and that the right to food does not remain an act on paper or a political rhetoric.”
[BJP will] Ensure effective implementation of the Right to Education, Right to Food Security Act.”

This sounds familiar

It wouldn’t be useful to compare the BJP’s 2014 manifesto with the 2009 manifesto in terms of things that haven’t been accomplished, since they weren’t in government. But some of the old stuff that persists sounds like a obligatory lip-service through copy-pasting from 16 years ago.

1998: “Immediately seek the passage of the Bill reserving 33 per cent seats for women in all elected bodies, including the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.”
2014: “BJP is committed to 33% reservation in parliamentary and state assemblies through a constitutional amendment.”

1998: “The BJP will...entrust the Law Commission to formulate a Uniform Civil Code based on the progressive practices from all traditions.”
2014: “the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times.”

1998: “The BJP will abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution.”
2014: “BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”

1998: “Set up a National Judicial Commission which will recommend judicial appointments in the High Courts and the Supreme Court and draw up a code of ethics for judges.”
2014: “Set up a National Judicial Commission for the appointment of judges in higher judiciary.”

This sounds familiar, Part 2

Whatever you can do, I can do better, the BJP seems to be saying. If the Congress has put in place a ‘National Skills Development Agency,’ the BJP is promising a ‘National Multi-Skills Mission.’ While the Congress has insisted it will make the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model more widespread, the  BJP is offering up an evolution of this into a People-Public-Private Partnership model (PPPP), without explain how ‘people’ and ‘public are different.

Dissipating Desire

Even the only overtly Hindutva portions of the 2014 manifesto have a few interesting changes.

1998: “The greatest mass movement in post-Independence history [that] reoriented the disoriented polity in India strengthened the foundation of cultural nationalism.”
2009: “There is an overwhelming desire of the people in India and abroad to have a grand temple at the birth place of Sri Ram in Ayodhya.”
2014: “BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.”

Fusion wisdom

Finally, this point deserves to be highlighted for itself:

“Yoga and Ayurveda are the gifts of ancient Indian civilization to humanity and we will increase the public investment to promote Yoga and AYUSH. We will start integrated courses for Indian System of Medicine (ISM) and modern science and Ayurgenomics. We will set up institutions and launch a vigorous program to standardize and validate the Ayurvedic medicine.”