A meeting was called today by the Election Commission of India seeking views of political parties for framing guidelines for governing the content of election manifestos.
The CPI(M) was represented at the meeting by Polit Bureau Member, A.K. Padmanabhan and Central Secretariat Member, Hari Singh Kang. The full text of the note submitted by the party in this regard is being released herewith.
On the Issue of Framing of Guidelines which Governs the Content of the Election Manifesto
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is opposed to any form of intervention by any authority, agency or body in the formulation of the ideology, aims, policies, programmes of political parties. The democratic polity of the country is based on political party system and free and fair elections. One of the important foundations of free and fair elections is the right of the political parties to freely express its ideology, policies, programmes and promises to the people. Any infringement on the right of expression by intervention by any authority, body or agency will cut at the root of the political party system and free and fair elections. A political party is a voluntary association of its members constituted on the basis of an ideology, certain aims, policies and programmes etc. It is the prerogative of the political parties to decide its aims, policies and programmes.
An Election Manifesto is a declaration of the ideology, aims, intentions, motives or views, policies, programmes and promises of a political party in elections. Generally, Election Manifestos are published before every election. It is the right of each political party to decide the content of its Election Manifesto. No country in the world, which has a strong system of democratic elections, has provided for supervision or approval by any external agency including electoral authority on the content of the Election Manifesto. The CPI(M) is opposed to any intervention by any external authority, body or agency in the content of the Election Manifesto.
It is not possible to define the word `freebies’. The definition in Webster Dictionary or Oxford Dictionary do not help us to identify what is meant by `freebies’. If these definitions are acceptable, then all promises to implement `Part-IV Directive Principles of State Policy’ in the Constitution of India and promises on all food security schemes, social welfare and security schemes, distribution of land to the landless etc will come under the definition of `freebies’. What is wrong if a party promises, if it comes to power to free education upto the secondary stage, or free health care, or distribution of land to the landless? All promises on any matter can be interpreted as `freebies’.
It is not necessary to enact any law or frame any guidelines which govern the content of the Election Manifesto. Important guidelines are already provided in the `General Conduct’ part of the `Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates’. Other than these, there is no need for any additional guidelines for the preparation of Election Manifesto by political parties.