In a move to do away with the ambiguity and financial vagueness of promises made by political parties in their election manifestos, the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday proposed standardised pro-forma to be added to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), by way of amendment to bring clarity to the process of declaration.

This will ensure that the parties have the means to sponsor the changes and voters are aware of the financial ramifications of the electoral promises, the poll body said. EC has written to all recognised national and state political parties, seeking their views on the proposed changes.

“While the existing guidelines under MCC require the political parties and candidates to explain the rationale for promises made therein as well as the possible ways and means to finance such promises, Election Commission of India has observed that the declarations are quite routine, ambiguous and do not provide adequate information to voters to exercise informed choice in an election,” the poll body said in a statement on Tuesday.

It added that the Commission, comprising of chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar and election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, decided that the apex poll body will not remain a “mute spectator” “over the undesirable impact of some of the promises and offers on the conduct of free and fair elections and maintaining level playing field for all political parties and candidates”.

EC has written to all recognised national and state political parties, soliciting views for proceeding with proposed amendment for bringing about a standardised disclosure proforma with the aim of “not only strengthening of Model Code of Conduct guidance for political parties and candidates but also ensuring authentic information to the voters to assess financial viability of election promises made by political parties”.

The parties have time till October 18 to revert.

While the Commission remains “agnostic to the nature of promises, the need to frame disclosure requirements to enable healthy debate on the financial implications of implementing those promises both in the immediate future and for the long-term fiscal sustainability, is imperative for facilitating the conduct of free and fair elections”.

“The Commission has proposed to bring about a standardised disclosure proforma for guidance of political parties and candidates, but also ensuring authentic information to the voters to assess financial viability of election promises made by Political Parties. Proforma seeks details of revenue generation ways (through additional tax, if any), rationalising expenditure (cutting some schemes, if so required), impact on committed liabilities and/or raising of further debt and its impact on FRBM limits,” the statement added.

To facilitate the providing of financial ramifications of the manifesto promises to voters, the election body has suggested an amendment in the Model Code of Conduct, so as to add an additional form that includes the declarations of the extent and expanse of coverage (example, individual, family, community, BPL or all population, etc.); quantification of physical coverage as in (i) above; quantification of financial implications of the promise (s) made; availability of the financial resources; ways and means of raising resources for meeting the additional expenditure to be incurred in fulfilling the promises; impact of the additional resource raising plan (for fulfilling promises) on fiscal sustainability of the state or the Union government, as the case may be.

“Chief secretaries of state(s) and Union finance secretary in the Centre will also be required to populate fiscal information based on the latest BE/ RE in year of the general election. Parties will have to report against these fiscal parameters facilitating standardisation and comparability,” the statement added.

By Shadab

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