[15 April 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: A manifesto where inclusivity takes center stage

Mains PYQ Relevance: 

Q Individual Parliamentarian’s role as the national lawmaker is on a decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcome. Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2019)

Q “The Indian party system is passing through a phase of transition which looks to be full of contradictions and paradoxes.” Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2016)


Mains: Polity;  Indian Party System;

Mentor comments: In recent times, many National and State parties have published their manifestos for each general election. Election manifestos are formal statements by political parties outlining their aims and policies if elected. In India, these manifestos play a crucial role in signaling the party’s priorities and choices to the electorate. Election manifestos are not legally binding, and political parties are not obligated to fulfill their promises. Due to this reason, it remains always debatable and never gets challenged in the Judiciary or the Parliament.

Let’s learn

Why in the News?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have released their manifestos for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, titled ‘Sankalp Patra’ and ‘Nyay Patra’ respectively. 

  • The Manifesto ‘Sankalp Patra’ emphasizes empowering Women, Agricultural Support, and Law Enforcement, the ‘Nyay Patra’ promises Economic Policies and Welfare Programs, including a 10% quota in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections.
What are Party Manifestos?

The Party Manifestos in general elections plays a crucial tool for political parties to communicate their vision, policies, and promises to the electorate. Manifestos outline the party’s stance on various issues, their proposed solutions, and the direction they intend to take if elected to govern.

Supreme Court in its judgment dated 5th July 2013 in SLP(C) No. 21455 of 2008 has inter alia directed the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines on Election Manifesto to be included as part of the Model Code of Conduct

Challenges in the General Election Manifesto System:

  • Varied Desires: National parties find it challenging to craft manifestos that resonate with the diverse aspirations of India’s populace, while regional parties are more adept at addressing local priorities.
  • Limited Awareness: Manifestos struggle to gain traction in Indian elections due to voter unfamiliarity, the impact of factors like caste and religion on voting patterns, and a dearth of focus on substantive discussions.
  • Minimum Reach: The Manifesto’s success hinges on the party’s ability to reach the masses, publicize it effectively, and turn it into a tool for mass mobilization and party revival, potentially leading to the healing of social relations and the revitalization of India’s economy, society, and democracy.
  • Unfulfilled Commitments: Political parties frequently fall short of fulfilling the pledges outlined in their pre-election manifestos, resulting in discrepancies between promises and actions.
    • Parties often backtrack on their commitments once in power, lacking mechanisms for ensuring accountability.
  • Encouraging a Culture of Freebies: Manifestos that promise freebies can distort the electoral process by amplifying the role of financial influence.

Significance of Election Manifestos

  • Shaping Political Narratives: They play a vital role in influencing voter decisions and setting the agenda for public debate during the campaign period. 
  • Offer Perviews: Manifestos provide voters a preview of what the party stands for and what they would prioritize if in power.
  • Source of Awareness and Mobilization: Election manifestos are a source of information regarding the policies of political parties. Political parties publicize their manifestos in a bid to shore up electoral support which results in mass Mobilization.
    • Moreover, it brings on-ground debates and discussions on issues that are considered important for elections.
  • Competition: Election manifestos underline the competitive nature of electoral politics. Election manifestos highlight the aspirations and expectations of citizens which are the critical basis of electoral exercises.
Legal Provisions in Other Countries:

In Bhutan and Mexico: Electoral Authorities have the power to vet manifestos and get certain types of content removed.

In the United Kingdom: the Electoral Authority issues guidelines for campaign materials (which would apply to manifestos also).

In the United States: Without a central EMB, the State-level EMB regulations generally do not include any provisions about political party platforms. It is the Party Committee that governs internally and develops the platform of a party for a particular election, as per the Charter and By-Laws of the party.

Conclusion: The Election Commission and political parties need to educate the public about the importance of manifestos. Increased awareness can lead to greater accountability for parties to fulfill their manifesto promises.

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