EC asks parties not to promise freebies

EC asks parties not to promise freebies

The Election Commission (EC) has asked political parties to make only those promises in their poll manifestos that they can fulfill and refrain from announcing freebies.

The panel has also asked parties to “broadly indicate” the “ways and means to meet the financial requirements” to fulfil these promises.

“Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled,” the commission said in the guidelines to political parties issued on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court had noted in its July 5, 2013, verdict that though promises in poll manifesto cannot be construed as a corrupt practice as per law, distribution of freebies of any kind “influences” people.

The commission said manifestos shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution and that it shall be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of the Model Code of Conduct.

The guidelines also asked the party in power to ensure that its actions do not give any cause for complaint that it used its official position for the purpose of election campaign. Ministers have also been asked not to combine official visit with poll work.

They cannot use official machinery or personnel for election-related work.

“Government transport, including official aircraft, vehicles, machinery, and personnel shall not be used for furtherance of the interest of the party in power,” the guidelines state.

The EC said the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution enjoin upon the state to frame various welfare schemes for citizens, and this there can be no objection to the promise of such measures in manifestos.

The commission has also waved the red flag at issuing advertisements at the cost of the public exchequer for partisan coverage of political news and publicity of achievements.

The commission had earlier circulated draft guidelines in this regard and elicited the views of parties. Parties, during their meeting with the commission, had expressed divergent views and most of them were against issue of such guidelines saying making promises to the electorate was their right.

The SC order, on a petition by advocate S Subramaniam Balaji challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to distribute freebies, said poll manifestos can be included in the Model Code of Conduct.

Political parties have been offering free laptops for students, mixer-grinders, colour televisions, loan waiver for farmers, free power for agriculture pump-sets without mentioning how they would be financed.

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