Jatin Desai

Importance of Election Manifestos

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We are in the midst of general elections. The election campaign is on. Various political parties have released their manifestos. Debates are also taking place on the feasibility of promises made by political parties. At the same time, there are few political parties who do not believe in manifestos. Debate goes on. The point is manifestos are important part of politics of parties at the time of elections and it reflects their ideology, policy and programmes.

The book Political Parties, Party Manifestos and Elections in India, 1909-2014 written by R K Tiwari narrates the evolution of electoral system, political parties and party manifestos over time. It looks at the Statues of 1909, 1919 and 1935 along with the party manifestos and elections until 1945-46. It also analyses manifestos of national parties from the first General Elections of Independent India held in 1952 till the last General Elections held in 2014.

The Indians demand of representations in the administration was raised since the passing of Government of India Act 1858, which transferred the power from the East India Company to the Crown. The Constitutional reforms of 1909, 1919 and 1935 recommended the system of representation based on classes and interests. It led to the emergence of political parties based on communal interest. The parties like Hindu Mahasabha was established in 1915, Akali Dal was founded in 1920.

Motilal Nehru committee of 1928 suggested adult suffrage despite issues like illiteracy, communal divide and lack of political experience. The author says,” Regarding separate electorates, the Committee observed that these are not only ‘bad for the growth of national spirit’ but ‘Extreme communalists flourish’ under this system and suggested joint or mixed electorates.

The first PM of India Jawaharlal Nehru spelled out his views on issues relating to electoral process in an AIR broadcast on November 22, 1951 where he favoured maintaining ‘a high level of propriety and decorous behaviour’ during election campaigns. The author rightly said, “Nehru was of the view that the propaganda of a party should deal with the policies and programmes and should not and degenerate into personal criticism.” Seeing campaign of various parties today we realises the importance of Nehru’s words. The author has analysed manifestos of parties like Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, Bharatiya Jan Sangh, Swatantra Party, All India Scheduled Castes Federation etc. Earlier manifestos were prepared after considerable deliberations within the party. Nehru prepared the manifesto for the first General Elections. But, before it was released it was presented and adopted at the AICC session at Bangalore in July 1951. It was again moved and adopted at the AICC meeting at Delhi in October 1951.

The issue of terrorism started getting importance in the manifestos since 1990s. The issue of India-Pakistan relations figured in the manifestos of all political parties since beginning. All the parties also emphasised on the independent foreign policy.

Party manifestos are losing importance. Not much discussion is taking place on the commitments made in the manifestos by parties. The Election Commission of India in 2014 introduced a new section on election manifestos in the Model Code of Conduct. One of it says, “Election manifestos shall not be inconsistent with the ideals and principles of the Constitution and the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct.”

Book: Political Parties, Party Manifestos and Elections in India, 1909-2014

Edited by:  R K Tiwari

Publisher: Routledge

Pages: 309;

Price: Rs 1495

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