INDIAN ELECTIONS: A PLETHORA OF BROKEN PROMISES

INDIAN ELECTIONS: A PLETHORA OF BROKEN PROMISES

Author: Aditya Agrawal
Student, 3rd Year BBA LLB (Hons.)
School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

ABSTRACT
On the verge of elections in India, The contesting parties comes up with a number of promises; either while campaigning through their representatives or through issuing a manifesto. But how often these promises are fulfilled? There is no strict legislative framework to bind the political parties to fulfil the promises made by them. The Indian Electorate compromises of a majority of uneducated voters, which usually don’t vote a party into the office because of their performance and merits; but because of the promises this parties make at the time of elections. Therefore it becomes the responsibility of  a political party to fulfil the promises that they make, or at least make promises which are not false and thus achievable. The author, through this paper has looked and tried to explain this aspect in detail. The paper further looks into present scenario on why such breach of promises can’t be challenged in a court of law. Finally the author proposes a framework which monitors, analyses the performance of the political party; Informs the electorate about such performance and finally holds the political party liable for non-compliance of such promises.
INTRODUCTION
Most of the political parties normally issue their manifesto on the eve of the elections, containing the declared ideology of the political party, In general, and its policies and programmes for the people and electorate in particular, in the context of coming elections.[1] It serves as a reference document or benchmark for the public at large for what a political party stands for and what it offers or promises to offer to the electorate, in particular, if it comes to power. The manifesto of the parties thus afford an opportunity to the electorate to weigh and analyse the relative merit of parties and decide which of them deserve their support at the hustings to meet their expectation and aspirations.[2]However, There is no law that binds the political parties to fulfil the obligations promised by them. Election manifestos, as is commonly known, are drafted before the elections, with a view to capture the imagination of the voters. The present state of putting no obligation on the part of the ruling party for its implementation has reduced the election manifestos to a mere rhetoric of political parties to hoodwink the credulous and gullible electorate.[3]This has made Indian election which is the biggest festival of the largest democracy nothing more than a contest of who can lie more realistically. Often tall promises are made and vague dreams are shown to people to entice and manipulate them to vote in the favour of the party who isn’t even going to work for them. Some of the reasons behind that why there is no such law or why the election manifestos are not yet legally enforceable is because of the nature of these political parties. The political parties are a organised group of people under the section 29A of the Representation of The People Act, 1950 and thus it will be difficult to hold one person liable for non-compliance of the promises by the government at large, Another problem that lies in front of such a legislation is the nature of polity in the Indian democracy. We are a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system. The problem lies in when no party gains clear majority and fails to form the government and a coalition government is formed. The only regulation that stops the political parties make tall promises, in the elections is the Model code o
f conduct launched by the Election Commission before every election, again which is not enforceable in a court of law. The paper deals with this in details and comes up with a frame work for solving this complicated problem and makes political parties liable for the promises they make at the time of the elections.
WHY ELECTION MANIFESTO NEEDS TO BE MADE LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE?
1.     NON FULFILLMENT OF PROMISES ACTS AS A BARRIER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY: Now a days manifestos have become a mere piece of paper. For this Political parties must be made liable”[4]quoted Justice JS Khehar, The Former Chief Justice of India while addressing a seminar on “Economic reforms in reference to Elections”. Indeed  the statement of the former CJ is true. The promises made by the political parties are often taken for granted. In India, nobody really reads manifestoes. The manifesto rarely impresses voters or helps parties swing voters — it has transformed into an intellectual and ideological exercise at best. Ideally, an election manifesto would be an important part of the political process, but it has rarely played a part in post-Independence India’s political history — aside from the slogan “Garibi Hatao”, few remember the contents of the Congress’s 1971 manifesto. That is why, implementation of the election manifestos presented to the voters before the elections must be made either constitutionally or legally binding on the ruling political party/combination of ruling political parties which emerges victorious and comes to power who must also be made accountable to the public in general and the voters in particular. In other words, what is now looked upon as a mere moral responsibility must be made legally enforceable. A specious reasoning advanced to shirk the duty of its (measures presented by the political parties in their election manifestos to improve the lot of the public and various promises made to them in their respective election manifestos) implementation or explain away their failure to implement it is that if the party in power at the time of election fails to implement the promises made in its election manifesto it would be voted out of power in the coming/next elections. However, those who advance this seemingly reasonable argument, appear to be quite conscious and confident of the fact that they can easily delude the electorate placed in a country like India, with all its concomitant advantages/disadvantages; advantages to the political parties and disadvantages to the poor people/electorate, who/which can be easily cheated by the political parties because of their ignorance, illiteracy and incapacity to assess the performance of the political parties during their earlier reign when they were in power and in respect of other political parties, which could not get a chance to be in power, to turn around and say that they could not see to it that the plans/programmes contained in their election manifestos were implemented because they were not in power/the ruling parties. Otherwise, there does not appear to be any explicable reason as to why the contending political parties or the contesting parties should make tall promises before the elections and immerse themselves in amassing wealth for the members of their own parties thereafter with impunity and without compunction, once the formality of election is over. It is true that there are some parties, which sincerely try to implement at least a fraction of the plans announced in their election manifestos. But yet the zeal with which they are propagated prior to elections is very much lacking at the time of their implementation during their terms of office. Otherwise, how can we take such highly tempting promises like “We will eradicate poverty”, “We will eradicate unemployment” and “We will root out corruption”, while in fact and indeed, they are growing, or more precisely, have reached alarming proportions? The promises are made to entice the voters to vote a particular political party and after forming the government the government rather opts to work in ad hoc basis. If they fulfil the promises they make are fulfilled, It will not only be good for the political party but also for the citizens of the country.
2.     LACK OF EDUCATED VOTERS: The seemingly divine principle that if the party in power fails to implement the promises, it is up to the people to vote it out of office in the next elections, does not suit a country like India. Since ours is a country, where, because of their economic indigence and illiteracy, intellectual poverty, abject religious attachment, wanting in discernible faculties (to a large extent), people or the public in general and a vast majority of the voters in particular, and who are afflicted with the aforementioned ailments allow themselves to be carried away by the temporary and temporal temptations flung at them.[5]According to the census of 2011[6], Only 74.04% of Indians are literates, Only 8.15 of the Indians are graduates. Therefore it can be safely construed, that most of the electorate in India lacks education. The party with the support of the majority of the population forms the government. As the majority of the voters aren’t educated enough, it is easy for a political party to entice them with false promise and false dreams. The decision made by this sect of the population thus becomes binding on the other sect of the population which is educated, which evaluates and votes the party based on its merits, based on their past performance. Therefore, it is of immense importance that once a political party comes into power, it fulfils it promises otherwise be legally liable as it is a never ending process and stands as a blockage in this nations road to progress and development.
3.     THE PROMISES MADE DURING THE ELECTION: More often than not, the promises made by the political parties either in their manifesto or orally are vague in nature. While campaigning, the parties make a lot of promises, without establishing or laying down a framework to fulfil such promises. Such promises are prima facie vague. In the 2014 election manifestos, both the BJP as well as the Congress did have some discussions around the topic of health care. However, the targets/promises were largely directional and unquantified in nature.[7]One of the points in the Indian National Congress’s manifesto, under the heading of Right to Health was “The Indian National congress commits itself to increasing the Institutional Delivery rate. Maternal and Child health care will also continue to be a major focus, we aim to reduce the Infant 0mortality Ratio drastically”[8]. The Bhartiya Janta Party which swept the 2014 assembly elections had vague promises in its manifesto under the healthcare column such as “Modernize government hospitals, upgrading infra structure and latest technologies”[9]or “Focus on Rural healthcare delivery”[10].Setting aside any framework or action plans, these promises aren’t even clear on what the government want to achieve through these promises. What the voters and thought leaders in the country would have liked to see was statements like – the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate to be reduced from x per 1,000 to y per 1,000 in five years, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 to be increased from ‘p‘ to ‘q’ in five years, the number of doctors enrolling for MBBS degree programs to be increased from ‘m’ to ‘n’in five years etc.[11]Ahead of the 2019 national elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced that he would provide 500-square-feet homes for slum dwellers in Mumbai within ten days if voted to power. However, there was no indication of where he will get the land to construct these homes.[12]Such promises superficial, vague and meaningless in nature and doesn’t materialise often. It even provides a way for the political parties to escape, if they have a meagre or a non-substantial development in the area they promised.
4.     NO AVAILABLE FRAMEWORK TO JUDGE A PARTY’S PERFORMANCE:  The “Right to know” is the part of fundamental legal right to empower the people while deciding to caste their votes in the support of candidates in the election. The right to know helps them elect right candidate and it is one of the fundamental principles of a parliamentary democracy.[13]The apex court of the country in the SP Gupta & Ors. V President of India[14]observed:
”The concept of an open government, is the direct emanation from the right to know which seems to be implicit in the right of free speech and expressions guaranteed under article 19(1)(a). Therefore Disclosure of Information in regard to functioning of government must be rule and secrecy an exception justified only where the strictest requirement of public demands.”
Section 33A and 125A of the Representation of the People Act,[15]ensure this right to the voters by compelling the candidates standing in an election to disclose his/her antecedents in a sworn affidavit. However there is no frame work to inform the electorate about the antecedents of a political party. In a democracy, the idea behind elections at a certain frequency is to empower citizens to elect a political party or a candidate of their choice for a term, and to give them the option to reject the party for the next term. Inherent here is the assumption that people will cast votes as per the party’s performance in the last term and the expectations for the future.[16] Future expectations understandably are often embedded in the past performance of the candidate – whether in power or otherwise. Thus, for voters to be steered by facts, it is important to provide them with a framework to assess the earlier government’s performance.[17]However, There are no grounds, framework  or measure to analyse a political parties performance during their tenure at the centre. The promises made in the election manifestos are largely qualitative in nature and thus unquantifiable. Let us understand this with an example; During the time of an election a political party through its manifesto or orally to take measures to reduce unemployment. After coming to the power, the party doesn’t make any policy or introduce any programme to address such issue thus failing to fulfil such a promise. However due to establishment of private companies, number of vacancies arise and people get employed. The percentage of unemployment will definitely reduce but the government still would have failed to fulfil its promise. A rational Indian voter would be of the idea, as the number of unemployed people has gone down; The numbers are in the favour of the government, The government has fulfilled its promise while actually it hadn’t. He’ll be enticed to vote for a non performing and incapable government. The incapable political party will again find a way to escape and get into power. While addressing the same, The former CJI of India, Justice Khehar was of the opinion that the “short term memory of the electorate” was the reason behind this. Indeed, the rationale behind his statement is that the major propor
tion of the electorate is uneducated and don’t have the framework to monitor and analyse how the government has performed. The only way an average Indian is informed about the work done by the political parties at the is through the news which the media houses publish, non-partiality of which is under question in most circumstances. Ministry of Strategic planning publishes reports quantifying the progress that the government has made, However the ministry is under the said government and thus such report can’t be relied upon to analyse the performance. Therefore there is a need for an independent, impartial constitutional body which analyses the working of a government and measures the rate at what it has fulfilled its promises. The main aim behind establishment of this body should be to make people informed about how the government has worked for them. So that the majority of the voters are well informed and make rational choices while casting their valuable votes.
WHY ISN’T A POLITICAL PARTY MADE LIABLE FOR NON COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROMISES MADE?
1.     NON LEGAL RECOGNITION OF THE POLITICAL PARTIES:  The Representation of the people Act, 1951 recognises the political parties as ”Any association or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party and intending to avail itself of the provisions of this Part shall make an application to the Election Commission for its registration as a political party for the purposes of this Act’’[18]The act recognises the political parties as an association of person for the regulation and registration. The parties don’t posses the personality trait of a legal person or corporate personality like that of a company. It is generally understood concept in the common law and jurisprudence that a person is capable of rights and duties and thus being capable of suing and being sued. A political party has no attached legal personality and thus isn’t capable of being sued. Individuals cannot be sued or penalised for the non-compliance of promises made by political parties, the non-fulfilment of promises cannot be result of the action of individual but because of a collective conscience of the majority of the political parties. Therefore for such misconduct entire government needs to be held liable. If the political parties were duly registered and had an identity, they could have been granted a legal party and then it would have been easy to hold them liable for non-compliance of the promises they make during elections. It would have been more detailed and a systematic process had these political parties been more systematically assigned.
2.     CURRENT LEGAL POSITION: Judicial options for ensuring compliance are limited — a PIL filed by advocate Mithilesh Kumar Pandey[19]was rejected by the Supreme Court bench which said that it is not the court’s job to consider a matter of unfulfilled promises. The model code of conduct drafted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the 2014 general elections had guidelines that prohibited parties from making promises in their manifestoes that would exert an undue influence on voters. However, the very fact that the code is not enforceable by law leads to such guidelines being followed only in abeyance. ECI has sought to hold the line — it censured the AIADMK in August 2016 for not being able to give a rationale and means to meet the financial requirements for the poll promises provided in its manifesto in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections that year. But this approach has had limited dividends. The supreme court continues to be of the view that the political parties aren’t bind by the promises they make during elections, However It is important for political parties to be made accountable for their promises by ensuring a legal responsibility for their fulfilment. The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, in 2013, recommended that the model code should be made legally binding and made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 — such a reform would add teeth to ECI’s powers, enabling it to deter political parties from making empty promises in manifestoes. There must be a cost to unfulfilled manifesto promises, aside from a chance of being voted out of power.[20]
3.     MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM: India is the largest democracy of the world Leaving aside the short span of 1 975-76 the reign of democracy has remained uninterrupted. The Adult franchise, impartial election, independent judiciary, multi party system are bedrock of democracy. The electorate changes the government through ballot only. The human being since the day one of civilization has been churning up their mind over certain questions to find out their possible solutions. One of them was about the governing of the nation as to which kind of system would be utilized to govern the nation. In mind-blowing exercise so many forms of governments came in to the existence namely Monarchy, Oligarchy and democracy with various variations. The democracy, not being an exception, has several variations too.[21]With the statutory right of the people to stand for the Elections guaranteed to almost all its citizens, India is a home to a number of political parties both at central and state levels. It is one of the reasons why sometimes no political gets a clear majority and thus failing to form a government, a number of political parties come together and they than form a government. It becomes difficult to hold such a government liable as different parties present their manifesto before contesting elections, However a coalition government is formed after the elections. Different parties have different agenda’s and therefore it becomes difficult to hold them all liable as there is no fixed one agenda before the government.  
CONCLUSION
It is important for political parties to be made accountable for their promises by ensuring a legal responsibility for their fulfilment. The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, in 2013, recommended that the model code should be made legally binding and made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 — such a reform would add teeth to ECI’s powers, enabling it to deter political parties from making empty promises in manifestoes. There must be a cost to unfulfilled manifesto promises, aside from a chance of being voted out of power. There should be a legislation to give a political parties legal recognition like a corporate personality so that it is capable of suing and being sued. The manifestos presented by them should be more technical and quantifiable in nature. The parties will have a corporate personalities and a coalition of these parties should be treated like merger of different companies(A merger or coalition will be possible only before the elections). The manifestos presented by these political parties, or the merger of the political party will be legally binding on them like a contract and non-compliance of which will lead to punitive measures. 
A special bench Court of the Supreme Court of India for the parties in power at centre, and tribunals at state levels whose decree should have the power like that of a high court  should be given the jurisdiction to decide as to whether the political party, which is ruling at a particular point of time, did really implement the programmes or plans as set out in its election manifesto either completely or substantially. This project should be undertaken just one year before the coming general elections and if the Court (Supreme Court of India in this case) decides that the existing ruling party at the national level implemented the plans as set out in its manifesto, either fully or to a large extent, it can go ahead in the coming general elections, without any hindrance; and on the contrary, if the bench Court of the Supreme Court decides that the ruling party failed to implement its election manifesto, that particular party or combination of ruling parties should be banned or forbidden from contesting in the next general elections or for a period of six years, at the discretion of the Supreme Court. This proposition to start the judicial process to decide as to whether a ruling political party/combination of ruling parties implemented what it promised to the people in its election manifesto, one year ahead of the coming general elections is to ensure that the Court (the Supreme Court of India in this case) has enough time to pronounce its judgment/verdict, well before the commencement of the election process for the next general elections to the Lok Sabha and also to ensure that the ruling party does not feel that the Court had pre-judged the issues well before the completion of its full five-year term and the actual judgment of the Supreme Court and the initiation of the election process for the next general elections to the Lok Sabha are almost simultaneous and also if the Supreme Court’s enquiry and inquisition are started at a much later time, than one year ahead of the general elections, and if the Supreme Court’s judgment/opinion in this regard comes out, after the usual period/term of the Lok Sabha, which is normally five years, is over and the elections to the Lok Sabha are conducted as per the schedule then the judgment of the Supreme Court amounts to post-judging the issues and it will be infructuous and the whole exercise will be an idle formality and in case the span of the Lok Sabha is reduced, in case of its dissolution, well ahead of its full five-year term/tenure, then also again at least a bench Bench of the Supreme Court of India should be set up, for taking a “quick conspectus” to find out as to whether the immediately preceding ruling party implemented the points mentioned in its election manifesto at least pro tanto, if not in toto.
Before the midterm elections to the Lok Sabha, if the special bench Court of the Supreme Court of India comes to the conclusion that the then ruling party implemented the plans or programmes mentioned in its election manifesto proportionate to the length of the period for which the ruling party/com
bination of ruling political parties was in power/office, then that ruling political party/combination of political parties can go ahead for trying its fortunes in the upcoming midterm elections to the Lok Sabha.
But, before the midterm elections to the Lok Sabha, if the special five Judge Court of the Supreme Court of India comes to the conclusion that the then ruling party/combination of ruling parties failed to implement what it promised in its election manifesto, at that point of time, that particular political party/combination of ruling political parties should be forbidden from contesting in the coming midterm elections to the Lok Sabha or for a period of six years, at the discretion of the Supreme Court..

READ  The National Human Right Commission

[1] How India Votes,665
[2] How India votes,665
[3] Pradeep K Art
[4]https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/poll-promises-routinely-unfulfilled-parties-must-be-held-accountable-chief-justice-js-khehar/articleshow/58080867.cms
[5] https://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/875.htm
[6]Census 2011, https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/statistics/ESG2016_0.pdf
[7] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/how-party-manifestos-can-be-made-measurable-accountable-3745041.html
[8] CONGRESS MANIFESTO, Election 2014
[9] BJP MANIFESTO, Election 2014
[10] BJP MANIFESTO, Election 2014
[11]https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/how-party-manifestos-can-be-made-measurable-accountable-3745041.html
[12]https://thewire.in/politics/election-2019-party-manifestos
[13] SK Mendiratta and VS Ramadevi, How India Votes: Election Laws and Procedures,664
[14] AIR 1982 SC 149
[15] Section 29A, RPA.
[16]https://www.m
oneycontrol.com/news/business/how-party-manifestos-can-be-made-measurable-accountable-3745041.html
[17] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/how-party-manifestos-can-be-made-measurable-accountable-3745041.html
[18] Section 29A of the RPA
[19] W.P.(C) No. 1950/2014.
[20] https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/political-parties-must-be-held-accountable-for-their-election-manifestoes-writes-varun-gandhi/story-B2r1PBSxNhqjqqeh38tvGL.html
[21] Sudhir Kumar, Constitutional Positions of the Coalition Govts. in India

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