[6 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: The PM’s speeches fall foul of the Model Code of Conduct

Mains PYQ Relevance: 

Q) Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Q) ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2017)

We adopted parliamentary democracy based on the British model, but how does our model differ from that model?​ (UPSC IAS/2021)
1. As regards legislation, the British Parliament is supreme or sovereign but in India, the power of the Parliament to legislate is limited.​
2. In India, matters related to the constitutionality of the Amendment of an Act of Parliament are referred to the Constitution Bench by the Supreme Court.​
Select the correct answer using the code given below.​
(a) 1 only 
(b) 2 only​
(c) Both 1 and 2 ​
(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Prelims: Model Code of Conduct (MCC);

Mains: Issues around Elections and Parliamentary Representation;

Mentor comments:The ongoing Lok Sabha elections spotlight manifesto deficiencies. The Prime Minister’s false claims against the Congress indicate a narrative lacking factual basis. The absence of a law governing manifestos and weak enforcement of electoral regulations contribute to the erosion of democratic principles and the malaise persists despite constitutional mandates.

Let’s learn

Why in the News?

The Prime Minister’s recent statement about the opposition’s intentions through their manifestos ( including gold and mangalsutra) has stirred controversy. Leaders must uphold factual accuracy and responsible discourse during this critical time.

The contents of the two Manifestos

  • Congress Manifesto (‘Nyay Patra’):
    • Wealth Creation: The manifesto emphasizes rapid growth and wealth generation, setting a target of doubling the GDP in the next 10 years.
    • Welfare: Prioritizes the welfare of the poor as the first charge on government resources, aiming for a fair, just, and equal-opportunity economy under the Nav Sankalp Economic Policy.
    • Equity: Acknowledges the disparity among marginalized communities (SC, ST, OBC) and proposes a nation-wide Socio-Economic and Caste Census to strengthen affirmative action based on data.
  • Constitutional References:
    • Preamble: The manifesto echoes the principles of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, aiming to secure justice, social, economic, and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship; and equality of status and opportunity for all citizens.
    • Directive Principles of State Policy (Articles 39, 38, 46): Highlights the constitutional mandate for the state to ensure adequate means of livelihood, equitable distribution of resources, promotion of welfare, minimization of income inequalities, and promotion of educational and economic interests of weaker sections, especially Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • BJP’s Manifesto:
    • Uniform Civil Code: Criticizes the BJP’s aggressive push for a uniform civil code, suggesting that the BJP’s actions contradict its own manifesto’s commitments to the principles of the Constitution.
    • Comparison with BJP’s Manifesto: Contrasts the BJP’s manifesto promises with those of the Congress, highlighting initiatives like free rations, health insurance, and housing provided by the BJP.
    • Accusation of Misguidance: Accuses the BJP of misguiding the nation by turning a serious document (the Congress manifesto) upside down.

Major Challenge: No law to govern the Manifesto

  • S. Subramaniam Balaji v. Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. (2013): Supreme Court highlighted the absence of legislation governing election manifestos. Consequently, the Court directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to collaborate with political parties to formulate guidelines.
    • The ECI, following a meeting with political parties on August 12, 2013, issued ‘Instructions to political parties on manifestos’ on April 24, 2015. These guidelines, acknowledging that election manifesto promises are not considered corrupt practices under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, underscored the influence of freebies on voters and the importance of fair elections.
  • Violation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC): The Prime Minister’s statements against the opposition and minority communities are cited as violations of the MCC, particularly regarding the prohibition on appealing to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. This indicates a challenge in ensuring compliance with the MCC by political leaders and parties.
  • Corruption in Electoral Practices: The Supreme Court’s rulings identify speeches of a religious nature aimed at influencing voters as corrupt practices. However, the passage suggests that such appeals continue to occur, indicating a challenge in effectively combating corruption in electoral practices.
  • Weak Enforcement of Rule of Law: Despite regulations and legal provisions prohibiting certain activities during elections, such as appeals based on religion, caste, or community, there are challenges in enforcing these laws effectively. The passage criticizes the weak rule of law, indicating a broader challenge in ensuring adherence to electoral regulations and upholding democratic principles.
  • Composition and Functioning of the Election Commission of India (ECI): The passage suggests dissatisfaction with the ECI’s performance and its failure to ensure free and fair elections. This raises concerns about the composition and functioning of the ECI, indicating a challenge in maintaining the independence and effectiveness of electoral authorities.

Way Forward:

  • Legislation on Manifestos: Introduce legislation to regulate election manifestos, outlining guidelines for their content, transparency, and accountability. This law can be based on the guidelines formulated by the ECI, ensuring that manifestos align with democratic principles and do not incite communal or divisive sentiments.
  • Strengthening the Model Code of Conduct (MCC): Enhance the MCC to include stricter provisions against appeals to caste, religion, or community for securing votes. Ensure that violations of the MCC are swiftly addressed and penalties are imposed on erring political parties or candidates.
  • Improved Enforcement Mechanisms: Strengthen enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with electoral laws and regulations. This may involve empowering the Election Commission with greater authority and resources to monitor election campaigns, investigate violations, and take prompt action against offenders.
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