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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
BJP to act against conversions
Abhishek Prabhat
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Head shaving as part of religious conversion in Tamil Nadu last year
The BJP is uneasy about religious conversions involving Hindus
India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says it will ban forcible religious conversions and stop foreigners from occupying high offices.

In a document released ahead of next month's general elections, the party says it remains committed to building a temple at a disputed site in Ayodhya.

The Vision 2004 document was released at a public function in Delhi.

The party has not called it an election manifesto for fear of upsetting some of its key coalition partners.

Italian connections

The BJP has always been uneasy about religious conversions, especially involving low caste Hindus who they argue have been brainwashed or coerced into changing their religious faith.

That unease is expressed in the pre-election document, as is the pledge to stop people of foreign origin from occupying high office.

Analysts say that pledge has been included to attack the Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who has been criticised by the party for her Italian origins.

The document says the BJP is committed to the ongoing economic reforms and will seek to extend them if it wins the elections.

It says the BJP would give priority to making India a major exporting nation and a global manufacturing hub.

Green revolution

"We aim to provide the conditions for a broad manufacturing base that can export its products all over the world, and can compete not only on cost but also on quality and technology", the document says.

The BJP says it will launch another green revolution to boost Indian agriculture.

Babri mosque before demolition
The BJP remains committed to building a temple in Ayodhya

The first green revolution in the mid-1960s used new technologies and high yield crops to attain self-sufficiency in food.

"The BJP believes that a second green revolution is needed to increase farm productivity, achieve crop diversification and reduce waste," the document says.

Several controversial issues - which have always been among the BJP's favourites - find a mention in the document.

But in contrast to its aggressive postures in the past, the BJP now calls for a consensus and dialogue to resolve them.

"The BJP reaffirms its commitment to the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya," the document says.

"However, we believe that dialogue, and a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill, are the best way of achieving this goal."

Hindu militants are campaigning for a temple to be built at the site where they destroyed an ancient mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh in 1992.

They say the mosque was built on an earlier temple to Lord Ram, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism.

Another pet issue is addressed in the document with the demand that there should be only one civil code for all Indians.

At present Muslims, for example, have their own civil code which allows them to have more than one wife.

We aim to provide the conditions for a broad manufacturing base that can export its products all over the world
BJP document

Analysts say some senior BJP leaders were not too keen to include these issues in the document because they feared antagonising the minorities and losing votes.

But it seems the party was forced to mention them under pressure from the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh - a right-wing Hindu group which provides ideological backing to the BJP.

India votes 2004: Full in-depth coverage here

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