Home / Politics / Policy /  EC now says it can’t enforce its guidelines on manifestos

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (EC) has admitted that it will not be able to scrutinize manifestos and act against political parties that have not disclosed the financial implications and fiscal burden of their promises—something it had highlighted in an earlier order.

The Commission's position should bring some relief to parties that are already chafing under the restrictions imposed by its so-called model code of conduct.

“With the polling already kicking off, it would not be possible to look into the manifestos of all the political parties and take relevant action on it," said a senior EC official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Over the past month, all parties have released their manifestos with great fanfare, but none have charted out the fiscal roadmap for their big-ticket promises. While the Congress promised the right to health, pension and housing for all, broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh villages, and training for 100 million jobs, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised the creation of a price stabilization fund to combat inflation, water to every farm and a low-cost housing programme. New entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), too, promised health and education for all.

The EC, in an order dated 19 February, added a section on election manifestos to the model code of conduct which defines what governments and parties can do once elections have been announced, and what they can’t.

The Commission made several restrictions binding on all parties including one that said: “In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the rationale for 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."

Experts say that the manifestos should ideally not fall under the model code of conduct and a limitation like providing a fiscal roadmap for poll promises is “impractical" in the current situation.

“The intention is quite good but it may not be practical for political parties to work out the financial details at the level of manifesto," said P.D.T. Achary, former Lok Sabha secretary general.

“We are not sure whether the Election Commission will be able to scrutinize all these manifestos and give appropriate instructions to the political parties. After all, manifestos are just a statement of intent."

The EC’s order was in response to a Supreme Court judgement in July 2013 where it asked the EC to formulate guidelines to ensure a “level playing field" between contesting parties.

Political parties, too, say that getting into fiscal details at the stage of the manifesto is not practical.

“Manifestos are made by a political party but implemented by a government," said BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, proffering one reason why it isn’t possible to get into the financial implications of all promises. Still, he added, his party has sought to establish the rationale for its promises in the manifesto itself.

The Congress party’s national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala echoed that sentiment and said his party has reasoned out the promises made. He added that while it was the EC’s responsibility to ensure free and fair elections, the onus of fulfilling election promises is with the “respective political parties" that are, ultimately, “accountable to the people of India".

A senior AAP member took a different view.

“In principle, the idea of accountability in a manifesto is extremely important," said Atishi Marlena, who was in charge of drafting the AAP manifesto. “While it may not be implementable instantly, the AAP agrees that there is a need for greater accountability in manifestos."

Catch all the Politics News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
More Less
Recommended For You
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout