Political parties may not be able to announce construction of a religious place or declare un-quantified freebees or something adverse against any country in their election manifestos if the Election Commission has its way.
The election commissioners have asked the officials to prepare a background note for framing guidelines on preparing election manifestos on similar lines. Once the note is prepared, the commission would be holding discussion with the political parties on the proposed guidelines.
A senior ministry official said the commissioners wanted that the guidelines should clearly state do’s and don’t for the political parties when it comes to preparing manifestos without curbing creativity in suggesting developmental measures by the parties.
“We have a certain clarity that promises which create communal or sectarian divide or can result in law and order problems during elections should not be included in the manifestos,” a commission official said.
And it could mean that the BJP may not be able to promise building a Ram temple at Ayodhya and Congress promise of reservation on religious lines. The BJP has already talking about Ram temple and the Congress may come up with something to appease minority population.
The election commission has undertaken the exercise on directions of the Supreme Court which wanted it to frame guidelines to bring the manifestos in the ambit of the model code of conduct. The code become applicable only when the dates for elections are announced and normally, the manifestos are announced much before. The court wanted to bridge this ambiguity.
The commission officials said various countries like United Kingdom have broad contours of what the election manifestos should be and what should be avoided in the manifesto. The prescription is, however, suggestive than prohibitory.
The EC, sources said, is keen to impose restrictions on the freebees which the political parties announce before the elections.
“The parties should make it clear that how much people would benefit from such a freebee,” an official said, while reacting to Samajwadi Party’s promise of providing free laptops to all college students in Uttar Pradesh. He admitted that such a promise is impossible to implement in five years.
The EC is sure that it will not hurry up its regulations on manifesto. “We would give enough time to the political parties to make suggestions on the proposed guidelines and therefore, giving a timeframe for finalizing it will not be possible,” an official said, expecting the guidelines to be ready before next general elections.