The Madras High Court ruled on March 31 last that political parties should be prohibited from making election promises that are capable of adding burden on the public exchequer. The Hugh Court directed the Election Commission of India and other Government authorities to respond to a set of queries ranging from whether the Central Government has taken any steps to bring legislation covering the issue of political manifestos, especially freebies promised in the election manifestos and governing the political parties as per the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of S Subramaniam v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others reported in (2013) 9 SCC 659. The High Court also asked the Election Commission in how many elections the Election Commission has vetted the election manifestos of political parties as per the dictum of the Supreme Court and which political parties have submitted their election manifestos for vetting during elections, after 2014 and what actions have been taken against those political parties, which have not followed the Supreme Court dictum to tender the manifestos for vetting? If the apex court takes this seriously and the respective High Courts also follow up on implementation of the 2013 ruling there would be less chances of political parties promising something they are unsure of providing. Politicians should understand that the public exchequer cannot be inordinately burdened by arbitrary decisions of a few irresponsible political parties that believe they can empty the public coffers at their whims.
Another aspect about a manifesto is that the voters forget what was promised soon after the elections. So how can they hold political parties and politicians to account? A manifesto on its own without the public to monitor it is a useless piece of paper. By the time the next election comes voters have already forgotten what was promised five years ago. In a scenario where voters are known to take money for votes a manifesto is not even needed. Very few educated and informed people keep the manifesto of a political party and question their inability to fulfil what was promised.
In Meghalaya political parties have promised to resolve the border disputes with Assam right since the 1980s. Now it’s 2021 but the problem remains intractable. Other promises include making Baljek airport functional. This has remained only a promise to entice the people of Garo Hills. Before the last bye-election to the Ranikor seat following the resignation of MM Danggo from the Congress and his joining the NPP, promises were made to make Ranikor a sub-division. After Danggo lost the election the NPP no longer makes this an issue and people too seem to have given up the demand. It is good that the Madras High Court has ticked off political parties for their unrealistic manifestos.