How you will keep promises? Election Commission asks political parties to give authentic information to voters

The ECI has asked all recognised national and state parties to submit their views on the proposal by Oct 19.

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, October 04, 2022, 11:48 PM IST
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Election Commission of India | Photo: Representative Image

New Delhi: As the debate on electoral freebies rages, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday proposed to amend the Model Code of Conduct to ask political parties to give authentic information to voters on the financial viability of their poll promises.

The ECI has asked all recognised national and state parties to submit their views on the proposal by Oct 19. If no response is received, it will be presumed that the party in question has nothing specific to say on the subject.

The ECI said empty poll promises have far-reaching ramifications and their undesirable impact on financial sustainability cannot be overlooked.

"The Commission notes that the consequences of inadequate disclosures by political parties get accentuated by the fact that elections are held frequently, providing opportunities for 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," its letter said.

The letter comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi derided ‘revdi’ culture, a reference to freebies offered by political parties, triggering a war of words between his BJP and the Opposition. The issue of freebies is also being debated in the Supreme Court.

The poll panel has proposed to amend the Model Code of Conduct to add a proforma to Part VIII (guidelines on election manifesto). It will require parties to inform voters about the financial feasibility of promises made in their manifestos and whether they are sustainable within the financial space of the state or the Union government.

The proforma seeks details of revenue generation (through additional taxes, if any), rationalising expenditure (through cutting back schemes, if required), impact on committed liabilities and/or raising of further debt and its impact on limits set by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

The model code is a document that guides the ECI in ensuring a level playing field for all parties and candidates during elections. The Commission noted that as of now most political parties do not submit their poll declarations to it in time.

The letter said, "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 panel said it is of the view that with adequate disclosures on financial implications of the promises made, the electorate will be able to make informed voting 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," the letter said.

The panel, at a recent meeting led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and attended by Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, decided that it cannot remain a "mute spectator" and overlook the undesirable impact of some of the promises and offers on the conduct of free and fair elections and maintaining a level playing field, sources said.

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