Election Commission’s U-Turn on Freebies

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Evidently what prompted the election commission to reverse its stand must be some arm twisting by powers that be.

The U-turn taken by the Election Commission of India on its stand over the promises doled out by political parties on the eve of elections is fraught with dangers to the democratic functioning of the country.

Just a few weeks ago, the commission had told the Supreme Court that making promises of freebies or welfare measures were subjective and open to interpretations.

It had told the court that asking the political parties to explain how they would generate funds to meet the promises to electorate would be an “over-reach” of its powers to regulate policy making on the subject and that it was not desirable for the Commission to intervene.

It had told the apex court on April 9 this year that the offering or distributing freebies in the run-up to the elections was a policy decision or political parties and questions whether such policies were financially viable or would have an adverse impact on the economic health of a state was to be considered and decided by the voter.

The commission had filed the affidavit in response to a petition by an advocate who had wanted the courts to prohibit parties from promising “irrational freebies”.

The petition was, in turn, prompted by a statement by the prime minister Narendra Modi who had spoken against the “revdi culture”.

The Supreme Court had also jumped into the fray and had asked the Election Commission on what steps it can take to discourage announcement of freebies.

Evidently what prompted the election commission to reverse its stand must be some arm twisting by powers that be.

The commission has not bothered to explain the rationale behind its rethinking.

Instead it has issued a letter to all the recognised parties to state that it plans to make it mandatory for parties to inform voters about the “financial ramifications” of poll promises against well-defined parameters.

The proposal aims to assess the feasibility of “implementation of such promises within the financial space available”, as per the letter.

The letter went on to add that while the Commission “agrees in principle” with the point of view that while the framing of manifestos is the right of political parties, it “cannot overlook the undesirable impact” of some of the promises on the conduct of free and fair elections.

The latest stand of the Commission, evidently taken without much thought going into the ramifications is based on the premise that voters reward political parties which make tall and irrational claims because they are unaware of the costs involved or the financial health of the state or the Centre.

This argument is itself irrational and presumes that the voters get swayed by such promises and disclosure on the source of fundings would expose them. If that was true, what about the disclosure of criminal antecedents of candidates at the time of filing their papers.

Also Read: Freebies reduce the prospects of development and growth

There is no decline in the number of the candidates with criminal cases against them winning elections. The voters apparently are not getting influenced by the criminal antecedents of the candidates.

subsidiesThe Commission’s proposal doesn’t talk about such promises made before the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct.

The incumbent governments would certainly have an advantage because those have the power to tweak the finances to make way for the promises they might like to make.

The central government, which now has even more powers over finances, would certainly benefit with more financial resources at its command.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the race to announce freebies without any consideration about the financial health of the economy is undesirable. However the proposal by the election commission can have serious implications.

Who will decide whether the promises made were feasible or not? Who will decide whether the new government would be able to generate resources promised by it or not? Who would evaluate the plans that any party might have to augment its revenue?

Also Read: Subsidies needed, not freebies

It’s not easy to find answers to such questions and it is doubtful whether the Election Commission has the mandate to do so.

It is better to leave it to the voters to decide which party or candidate was making false claims and let the voter elect the leaders who they think can deliver on promises.


Also Read:

75 years of hope and despair

Centre’s Opaque Auction Rules For Pulses Rip Off Govt Coffers, Help Millers Strike Rich

Need to amend laws like UAPA to provide for punishment for those who slap false cases

Global Arms Trade: Who are the real winners?

Why not 40 pc tickets for women in Punjab and elsewhere?

Punjab – How a deadly cocktail of Agri-Water-Energy nexus going to destroy it?

North Pole and the ideological conflict of RSS & Hindutva

Politics of Symbolism: Dalit Chief Ministers in India

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

Disclaimer : PunjabTodayTV.com and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors’ right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabTodayTV.com or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT

Author Related Post
Related Post

Copyright © Punjab Today TV : All right Reserve 2016 - 2023