Elections Manifesto in India: Should it be made legal in India?

INTRODUCTION

The door to win elections in India is making enormous promises which are known to every political party. A political party at any level, regional, state or the central, promises to eradicate the menaces in the society and also portray a society free from rampant evil and development in all spheres like education, employment, infrastructure, economy and security of the country. The word manifesto derives its meaning from the Latin word ‘manifestum’ which means clear or discernible. A manifesto is generally defined as a published declaration of the intentions, motives or views of an individual, group, political party or government whosoever issues it. A manifesto usually comprises a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes for the future [1]. Election manifesto a single document complies that with the policies of a political party; it is a revival of its statement and promises, on the basis of which the parties seek and influences the vote of the electorate. These manifestos are generally drafted before the elections making prodigious promises to be delivered, if the party triumphs the election. The election in India happens every five years, providing an appropriate gamut for the elected political party to fulfill its promises propounded in the election manifesto.



UNFULFILLED ELECTION MANIFESTO: AN ABUSE ON THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

The promises made under the election manifesto are not legally binding on the political party, which abstain them from performing the promises. The Supreme Court has issued guidelines on the election the manifesto that “The election manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution”.  However, it is derived from the preamble of the Constitution Of India that “we the people of India[2]”,  have elected this constitution and have been given the widest power, interpreting it in the widest of its latitudes that is to pursue happiness and impart justice, the citizen of India has entered into a contract with the state[3] and state defined under article 12 of the constitution of India i.e. “the government, Parliament of India  and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India[4]” and it is the responsibility of the government of India to fulfill its promises after being elected in power and one of the pre-condition is that the dignity and faith of an individual should be kept.  Therefore, the political parties must be made liable for breach the trust and promises made under the manifesto. The unfulfilled promises put a bar on the accomplishment and are a violation of the fundamental duties enshrined under the constitution of India. Article 51-A (j) of the constitution says that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to strive towards excellence in all spheres of the individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of Endeavor and achievement [5]. Elaborating the guidelines are given by the supreme court of India in a judgment dated 5th July 2013 in SLP(C) No. 21455 of 2008 (S. Subramaniam Balaji Vs Govt. of Tamil Nadu and Others) directing Election Commission to frame guidelines with regard to the contents of election manifestos ”that political parties should avoid making those promises which are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters in exercising their franchise. In the interest of transparency, the level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also, reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate 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[6]”. There is a blatant disrespect on the part of the political party of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as these promises are a mere fancy invitation for seeking vote of the electorate.

There must be concrete decisions, bona fide implementation in order to gain and maintain the trust of the citizen. The political parties should not craft false and improbable promises which destroy the supremacy of democracy in the largest democratic nation. There should be congruence between the party’s pledges and their actions. Correspondingly the Supreme Court of India also held that the question of implementing the manifesto arises only if the political party forms a government [7]. But however during the General election held in 2014 Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) released their election manifesto publicly with tall and hefty promises, ‘on reducing and reforming the electoral expenses for both political party and the government, removing bottlenecks and missing links in all sectors, restoring the trust and credibility of the Government’[8]. Ironically, the 2014 general elections were estimated to be India’s most expensive as the BJP spent Rs. 714.28 crores [9] ($115 million) on their general election campaign, the unemployment rate rose to the highest level in 45 years at 6.1% and the lowest rate of GDP was recorded during these five years from 8.2% in 2013-14 to 7% in the first a quarter of 2018-19.

The people of India are trapped in this vicious cycle and a cock and bull story of optimistically believing that the political party would oblige by the promises made to the people but after the election what remains is broken promises which lead to negative expectancy disconfirmation (NED). This has ushered the disinterest and disaffection of young voters in the political system and its process. According to the election commission, in 2019 about 1.04% of the voters felt that none of the candidates deserved their vote .In 2014 Lok Sabha election, this was around 1.08% of the voters[10], therefore voters opted for None of The Above (NOTA) and also skeptical voters are thriving on defense mechanism as to circumvent the most difficult stings of disillusionment brought by the broken promises.


CONCLUSION

The rationale behind putting the election manifesto under the purview of judicial scrutiny it to increase the accountability, implementation of magnificent promises and to keep the democratic spirit pristine. None of the political party ruling the country should make any lame excuses on the non-performance of these promises giving thousands of impediments. Rather than making long term promises, these promises must be made keeping in mind to be fulfilled within the scope of five years. The probability of the expectation of the government recital is the trust in the political system and to be particular in the very government, higher the trust in the party higher will be the expectation and vice versa. The citizens of the country should be free from the fright and uncertainty to question the official or the representatives of the government. Urging the government to address the issue should be a long gone affair, rather if the leader is called to attend the issues, he should work with the people to solve them. These false and misleading manifestos are an abuse on the Constitution of India and on the spirit of democracy and if these promises are not made legally binding then there should be no place for manifestos in India.


REFERENCES

[1]  Election Commission of India, Election Manifesto,( May. 24, 2015), https://eci.gov.in/election-manifestos/

[2] INDIAN CONST. Preamble

[3]  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract,( Dec. 10, 2010), https://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/rousseau1762.pdf

[4] INDIAN CONST. art 12.

[5] INDIAN CONST. art 51, § 1, cl.(j).

[6] Election Commission of India, Guidelines on Election Manifestos, https://eci.gov.in/mcc/

[7] S. SubramaniamBalaji vs. the Government of Tamil Nadu and Ors. AIR 2013  9 SCC 659, 

[8]Bhartiya Janta Party(BJP), Election Manifesto 2014, Poor delivery and credibility crises, (May.07,2014) https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/pdf/hindi/indiaelection2019/full_manifesto_english_07.04.2014.pdf

[9] Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), Election Commission of India, Election Expenditure Report 2014, Sept. 27, 2019, https://eci.gov.in/files/file/7806-bharatiya-janata-party/

[10] Jacob Kosay, Lok-sabha election 2019,Only a marginal change in nota vote percentage, https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/only-a-marginal-change-in-nota-vote-percentage/article27226552.ece


Thoughts of,

Piyush Jain & Harshita Sharma,

School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.


(Image used for representational purpose only. Image Courtesy: https://www.freeart.com/artwork/art-print/empty-political-speech-concept-blah_fa35606151.html )


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