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- GS 2 || Polity || Political Dynamics || Elections
- In every election, it has become a requirement for each political party to have a significant shared document known as an ‘election manifesto,’ which has gained a great deal of traction among political parties and voters over time.
- The manifesto has been able to play an important role in the formation of government at both the state and federal levels. It serves as a platform for political parties to explain their rationale, thus politicizing their policies, ideas, promises, reforms, animus, programs, and the generation of new ideas to create a better future, allowing voters to choose from a pool of parties that meet their expectations, desires, aspirations, ideologies, and goals.
Why in the news?
- Recently launching the Aam Aadmi Party’s ‘Mission Punjab’ in the election manifesto for the 2022 Assembly polls, national convener Arvind Kejriwal announced that if voted to power, AAP will transfer Rs 1,000 per month to the account of every woman in Punjab aged 18 or above.
What is an election manifesto?
- A manifesto is a published declaration of intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party, or government.
- In India, Election manifestos are not legally enforceable documents. There is no provision in law under which political parties could be held liable for not fulfilling promises made in their election manifestos.
Significance of election manifestos
- Information: Election manifestos are a reliable source of information about political parties’ policies. They have more weight than vague promises made at political rallies.
- Election manifestos represent the various options available to voters. The more factual goals stated in manifestos, as opposed to the abstract ideological positions of political parties and election rally rhetoric, reveal the available options.
- The competitive nature of electoral politics is emphasised by election manifestos. Election manifestos emphasise the importance of citizens’ aspirations and expectations in electoral processes, which are given concrete form in manifestos.
- Manifestos are a powerful tool for mobilising the masses. Political parties make their manifestos public in the hopes of gaining electoral support.
- Election manifestos serve as a source of debate and discussion about issues that are considered important for elections.
- With the advent of new electronic media and social media over the decade or so, there has been a tremendous down surge in the relevance of the political manifestos, thereby transforming the whole election scenario altogether. From the centric theme of ‘Garibi Hatao’ in 1971, laid down by Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi’s ‘Modifesto’ in 2014 general elections to the recent ‘NYAY’ of Congress; there has been a remarkable change in the tendency and approach of the manifestos shaped by parties.
Election Manifesto Challenges in India
- The problem of implementation: Despite formal mention in manifestos, political parties are often hesitant to carry out pre-election promises stated in manifestos. Due to lack of implementation, it creates an impression that the political parties can delude the election and gain profits by making fool of the illiterate, ignorant, and incapable poor people who cannot assess the performance of the parties. Unfortunately, there is no regulation of malpractice, unprofessionalism, or wrongdoing in manifesto preparedness nor there is a systematic mechanism for the supervision and control of this wrongdoing and malpractices.
- For example, the right to health has been mentioned in manifestos of leading political parties, but the budget allocated to health remains very low, making it impossible to carry out the manifesto commitment.
- Generic promises: Manifestos are full of broad commitments, such as “good governance,” but they aren’t accompanied by specific dimensions of good governance. Long-term commitments are emphasized at the expense of specific short-term actions.
- Political parties refuse to implement their pre-election electoral promises stated in manifestos when they come to power, and there is no way to hold them accountable.
- Electorally insignificant: Manifestos have failed to gain prominence in the Indian electoral process for a variety of reasons, including a lack of voter awareness, the importance of other factors such as caste, religion, and ethnicity in voting behavior, and political parties’ lack of emphasis on the factual debate in elections by emphasizing emotive issues of identity.
- Diversity: Election manifestos for national parties in India are difficult to write due to the enormous diversity of the population, each with its aspirations.
- Regional parties are better equipped to comprehend regional priorities and face fewer obstacles in developing election manifestos that address regional aspirations.
- Missing Environment Angle in Mainstream Politics
- For all the rivalry between the political parties contesting the elections, there is a remarkable homogeneity of thought on matters relating to ecology and economy and a lack of thinking about India’s future. In October 2018, United Nations (UN’s) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that without a radical course correction, the world will exhaust its carbon budget to keep global temperature increase below 1.5°C by 2030. Any increase above that will trigger runaway changes to the global climate that could leave large portions of the planet uninhabitable.
- But the environment angle is absent from the manifestos and declarations by political parties. What is desperately needed at this moment is a manifesto for the protection of the common and open lands and for the re-creation of economies that derive value out of healing wounded landscapes and covering open lands with diverse vegetation, water, and life.
The freebie model to Indian democracy
- Freebies are the things that are promised by the political parties in their manifestos of the election to provide for free to the people.
- Freebies cover a wide range of goods as well as services like bicycles, laptops, smartphones, TV sets, waivers on water and electricity bills etc.
- Tamil Nadu government was the first to introduce freebies to the Indian politics in 2006and also succeed in it.
- Government going forward and bringing schemes related to freebies but it has cerian limitations and loopholes-
- Undermining the powers of the EC: It undermines the powers of the Election Commission using many loopholes like,
- Disclosing the election manifestos before the declaration of elections by the EC.
- Undefined freebies and promised manifestos.
- Disturbing the free and fair election process of the Election Commission
- No legal basis to the freebie model: There is no legality to the promises made by the political parties. They are neither construed under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, nor is there any process to get these freebies promises fulfilled.
- Upper hand to the ruling Government:The ruling Government will always get an upper hand the freebie model of governance with ample resources and machineries to fulfil their promises. It can announce subsidies, new policies or schemes withstanding the loopholes of election processes.
- Reduced responsibility of Government:It also reduces the responsibility of government to act in a good governance manner.
- Supreme Court’s Judgement in 2013: As argued by the Supreme Court earlier, distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences the people, affects the level-playing field and obstruct the ‘free and fair elections’ in the democracy.
- Not included in RPA Act, 1951:But the SC explained that the law has excluded the promises made in an election manifesto to be construed as a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- Manifestos for elections are important documents in the electoral process.
- The Election Commission and political parties should educate the public about the importance of voting. As public awareness of manifestos grows, political parties will be held more accountable for delivering on promises made in manifestos.
- Election manifestos play an important role in most countries. But in other mature democracies both voters and parties take them very seriously. In the UK, the issues committed to in the manifestoes cannot be contested in the Upper House. Similarly in the US, the voters grill the candidates on their manifestos.
- Unfortunately, in India, these manifestos still do not have any legal sanctity. While manifestos should play a key role in the political dialogue, they instead often morph into mere intellectual exercises. So far the belief is that if the party-in-power fails to implement the promises, the people will vote it out. But that is not enough. The time has come now to make the political parties accountable for their promises in the manifestos.
Mains model Question
- What election manifestos must accomplish and why they are important.Discuss