The Election Commission has sought views of political parties by Feb 7 on its draft guidelines on election manifestos which suggest parties only make promises which can be fulfilled and narrate “ways and means” to meet financial requirements of poll sops.
In a letter to chiefs of all national and state political parties Saturday, the poll panel said they should reflect their views on the draft guidelines by Feb 7 after which it will finalise them and incorporate in the model code of conduct “in all future elections.”
The guidelines, expected to be in force for the Lok Sabha elections expected to take place in April-May, were sent to political parties Friday. They say that the manifestos should reflect the rationale of poll promises and parties should not to make promises which exert undue influence on voters.
“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 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,” say the poll panel guidelines.
“The election manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the constitution and further that it shall be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of the model code of conduct,” it added.
The poll panel said that directive principles of state policy enshrined in the constitution enjoin upon states to frame various welfare measures for citizens and there can be no objection to the promise of such measures in election manifestos.
“However, the political parties should avoid making those promises which were likely to vitiate the purity of the election process,”it said.
The poll panel had held a meeting in August last year to consult political parties on the issue of framing guidelines for election manifestos.
The Supreme Court had in July last year directed the poll panel to frame guidelines about content of the manifestos in consultation with political parties.
The court had said in its judgment that although the promises in election manifesto could not be construed as a “corrupt practice” under section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, “the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree”.
During consultations by the poll panel, some political parties supported the need for guidelines while others were of the view that it was their right towards voters to make such offers and promises in a health democracy.
“While the commission agrees in principle with the point of view that framing of manifestos is the right of the political parties, it cannot overlook the undesirable impact of some of the promises and offers on the conduct of free and fair elections and maintaining level playing field for all political parties and candidates,” the poll panel said in its guidelines.