Parties to indicate plans to implement free schemes

Chennai, March 5 (IANS) The competitive populism of announcing freebies like consumer durables may continue in the election manifestoes of major political parties in Tamil Nadu, said an advocate.

“The major political parties will announce freebies this time also. But the election manifesto is now part of the model code of conduct drawn by the Election Commission. So the parties have to indicate how the financial commitments would be met,” S. Subramaniam Balaji, a city-based advocate told IANS.

“Even the Supreme Court in a case filed by me has said that distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences all people. It shakes the roots of free and fair elections to a large extent,” Balaji said.

According to Balaji, government can create a community asset and not a private asset like consumer durables from its revenues.

The Election Commission has also said that freebies at government cost disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the electoral process.

Balaji had filed a case against DMK’s 2006 election promise of free colour television and also against AIADMK’s 2011 poll promise free mixer-grinder, laptop, fan, cattle and others.

The case was finally decided by the Supreme Court in 2013 after it directed the Election Commission to frame a guideline on election manifesto after consulting the recognised political party and make it a part of model code of conduct.

With the Election Commission of India announcing the schedule for polls in Tamil Nadu, now all eyes are on the election manifesto and the promise of freebies in them.

The DMK which started the trend of free televisions to ration card holders and the AIADMK which went several steps ahead by giving fans, mixer-grinders, laptops and others are in the process of preparing their poll manifestoes.

Balaji said as the manifestoes are now part of the model code of conduct, political parties have to state the rationale for the promise and the ways to meet the financial commitment to fulfil them.

The model code of conduct states: “In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.”

Incidentally presenting the interim budget for 2016-17 Tamil Nadu finance minister O.Panneerselvam said a revenue deficit of Rs.9,154.78 crore is unavoidable as the government is implementing several freebie and other welfare schemes.

The election commission also said that the manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in Constitution of India.

The manifesto should also be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of the model code of conduct.

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