The EC directive on manifestos is not enough, voters must read the fine print
The Model Code of Conduct says that it is expected that manifestos also reflect the “rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for iteditorials Updated: Nov 01, 2016 18:12 IST
In India, elections are bonanza time for voters. From cows to goats, mixer-grinders to laptops, political parties are known to promise everything – probably just short of a paid trip to the moon. There is no point blaming political parties alone because voters love these freebies, and rarely question the tall promises that appear in glitzy manifestos, which have become a medium foe the parties to state their “ulterior motives in a legalised format”. The good news is that the Election Commission (EC) has decided to crack the whip ahead of the forthcoming round of assembly elections: Its officials will start vetting manifestos in Punjab and UP and stringent punitive actions could be taken against parties flouting the norms.
It is odd that parties have managed to continue with such activities without any fear even when the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is clear on this. The MCC stipulates that parties and their candidates should refrain from all corrupt practices and offences such as bribing and intimidating voters, impersonation of voters and so on. In 2015, acting on a court order, the EC updated the MCC.
The updated code says that while there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare measures in election manifestos, political parties should desist from making promises that are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters in exercising their franchise. It added: In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the “rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled”. Here’s why this part is crucial: In 2012, the Shiromani Akali Dal had promised laptops to Class 12 students but later backtracked because of Rs 1.25 lakh crore debt.
With EC keeping a hawk eye on the manifestos, the parties will hopefully not go overboard with promises. But the real onus is on the voters: They must develop the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and use logic and reason when they enter the polling booth.