Manifestos: only a deception

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In every election, as a precedent, political parties release their election manifestos. Much about these electoral documents has been written. These are documents which contain big announcements which never come into truth. It is a great deception of voters. Everybody knows this is just a precedent and still everybody does it and these documents finally gather dust in parties’ cupboards. A basic question is: if parties can’t keep their word, why they do release these manifestos? The manifesto contains promises  a political party intends to do if it gets elected. But, like any other precedent in politics, it is also a deception of the voters. Barely two days before the first phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the BJP released their election manifestos. With large-scale unemployment being a pressing issue, the SP has promised to bring in an ‘Urban Employment Guarantee Act’, while the latter has announced that it will provide at least one job or self-employment opportunity to every household. Freebies figure prominently in the Samajwadi Vachan Patra as well as the BJP’s Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, even as the Supreme Court recently gave four weeks to the Centre and the Election Commission of India (ECI) to submit their replies on a petition seeking directions to freeze the election symbol or deregister a party that promises or distributes ‘irrational’ freebies in the run-up to the polls. Both the parties have promised to provide jobs to youths but they have no answer where they have money to provide employment? The states have gone cash strapped because of GST. The ways of tax collection for states have lost and from this year, the returns from GST will also be closed. So from where states bring money to create employment? But as already said, manifestos are not to be taken seriously.  Not only this, Supreme court has given central government four weeks time to submit answer for why not parties’ registration should be canceled or freeze its election symbol due to announcing of distributing unrealistic freebies. In such situation, all manifestos will be unreal. BJP has lost its pride and dignity on the issue of agitation of farmers on three farm laws. PM Modi had to take back farm laws due to farmers’ adamant stand against them. The result is that, both parties have gone all out to woo the farming community, which is a make-or-break vote bank, especially so in the wake of the year-long agitation against the three farm laws. The SP has promised that all small and marginal farmers owning less than two acres of land will get two bags of DAP fertilizer, five bags of urea, electricity for irrigation and interest-free loans. The other sops include two LPG cylinders every year to BPL families, one liter  of petrol to all two-wheeler owners and three liters of petrol and 6 kg of CNG per month to auto-rickshaw drivers. The BJP’s manifesto mentions free electricity for irrigation; free scooty for meritorious girl students under Rani Laxmibai Yojana; two crore tablets and smart phones under the Swami Vivekanand Yuva Sashaktikaran Yojana; and two free LPG cylinders (one each on Holi and Diwali) to every beneficiary of PM Ujjwala Yojana. If we see these promises, it seems that Uttar Pradesh people will live in real heaven if any one of these two parties will win. Not only that, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi in her party’s manifesto, has promised to waive farmers loan within ten days of getting power. If political parties have that much power, they would bring the Sun and the Moon in peoples’ houses. Late last month, the Supreme court had expressed concern  that the politics of freebies was depriving the elections of a level playing field. However, it’s obvious that various political parties cannot resist the temptation of reaching out to voters through allurements. The so-called vision documents are mostly aimed at short-term gains. The onus is on the ECI to frame specific guidelines on poll-time competitive populism to prevent the deluge of sops from vitiating the poll process. The commission should also look into the matter of election manifestos which are promising heaven to voters.