NEW DELHI: In a landmark order, the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday said that political parties will not be able to release election manifestos in the 48 hour prohibitory period before the conclusion of any state or national polls. This applies to both single phase elections or each phases of a multi-phased elections like the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.
The move is significant as it lends more clarity and aims to further strengthen the principle of "campaign silence" which prohibits any kind of campaigning in the last 48 hours up to the conclusion of polls so that the voters are not influenced.
"Having considered the suggestions and comments received from the political parties, the Commission has fixed a timeline for the release of manifesto by the political parties which has now been included as para no. 4 under the Part-VIII (Guidelines on Election Manifesto) in the Model Code of Conduct," said an EC order dated Saturday.
It went on to add that in single phase election manifesto cannot be released during prohibitory period and in multi-phase polls, it cannot be released in prohibitory period of all the phases.
Technically, it allows political parties to release manifestos in the middle of polling phases too provided it does not take place in the 48 hour period. This would come to aid for particularly regional or state level political parties which may release manifestos just before the phases of polling specific to them.
In an earlier communication to political parties dated Friday, the EC had also clarified that in multi phase polls, while there is silence period in some constituencies and campaigning may be on in others, "there should be not be any direct or indirect reference amounting to soliciting support of parties or candidates in the constituencies observing the silence period."
The first phase of polling for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections is on 11 April. National political parties including ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress are expected to release their manifestos before the evening of 9 April.