Ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission has issued fresh, comprehensive guidelines for political parties on their conduct and manifestos, cautioning them against making tall promises because in reality distribution of freebies of any kind “influences all people” and “shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree.”
While the EC has agreed in principle that framing manifestos is the right of the parties, it has refused to overlook the undesirable impact of some of the promises and offers on free and fair elections and on maintaining a level-playing field.
The EC has directed all parties and candidates to ensure that their manifestos reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means of meeting the financial requirements. “The trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.”
Manifestos should not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution. The parties should avoid making promises that are likely to vitiate the election process or exert undue influence on voters.
The guidelines follow the EC’s move to create a level-playing field before elections, following the Supreme Court’s directions.
In its July 5, 2013 verdict, the Supreme Court said that though promises made in manifestos could not be construed as corrupt practices as per law, the distribution of freebies of any kind “influences” all people.
The guidelines have taken into consideration the views of the parties expressed at a meeting with the EC on February 7. They have also been included in the Model Code of Conduct.
At the meeting, most of the parties stressed the need for adequate Central police force and CCTV and video camera arrangements at polling stations.
Some suggested that the EC review the transfers and postings made by the State governments in the run-up to the elections. A few wanted transparency in corporate funding for parties.
They almost unanimously called for an upward revision of the ceiling on election expenses in view of the rise in price index.
On the general conduct of the parties, the EC has directed that no party or candidate indulge in any activity that may aggravate differences or create mutual hatred among castes and communities.