New Delhi: The Election Commission has proposed to amend the Model Code of Conduct to add a proforma to Part VIII (Guidelines on election manifesto) under which political parties will have to inform voters about the ‘financial feasibility’ of promises made in their manifestos.
The new norm is expected to discourage the politics of freebies as championed by parties such as DMK, AAP and Trinamool Congress and where there is less focus on governance and issues concerning financial management especially at the state levels. The political parties will now have to explain to the voters whether their electoral promises are sustainable within the financial space of the state or the Union government.
The Supreme Court has recently observed that the issue concerning freebies is an important one and requires debate.
The poll panel’s move close on the heels after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lashed out at the “revadi” culture, a reference to freebies offered by political parties.
“The (Election) Commission notes that the consequences of inadequate disclosures by political parties get attenuated by the fact that elections are held frequently, providing opportunities for political parties to indulge in competitive electoral promises, particularly in multi-phase elections, without having to spell out their financial implications more particularly on committed expenditure,” the letter said.
In a letter to all recognised national and state parties, the Election Commission(EC) asked them to submit their views on the proposals by October 19.
By the end of this month or by the first week of November, the EC is likely to announce poll schedules for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The proposed proforma seeks details of revenue generation ways (through additional tax, if any), rationalising expenditure (cutting some schemes, if so required), impact on committed liabilities and/or raising of further debt and its impact on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM) limits.
The model code is a document which guides the EC in ensuring a level playing field for all political parties and candidates during elections.
The EC noted that as of now, most political parties do not submit to the EC their poll declarations in time.
“The choice to cast the vote … is directly and intricately linked to access to timely and, reliable information. It is in this background that timely availability of data-points to assess financial viability of the promises made to voters in the election manifestos assumes criticality,” the letter said.
The poll panel said it is of the considered view that with adequate disclosures on the financial implications of the promises made, the Indian electorate will be able to exercise informed poll choices.
“Although implementation of election promises could have several ramifications, the Commission proposes to confine the disclosures to only the financial implications of the promises in terms of the financial resources required.”