Election Commission plans to end jumlas. Will that make polls free & fair?

Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya | First published: 1 November 2016, 19:44 IST
Election Commission plans to end jumlas. Will that make polls free & fair?
Arya Sharma/Catch News

Imagine if BJP was to pledge its 'Rs 15 lakh in all bank accounts' promise on stamp paper. Would it still have gone ahead with the promise only to admit later that it was a jumla (idiom)?

Maybe it would, because this dream-selling is what all political parties do for a living. But it is quite possible that the rhetoric would have undergone at least some amount of filtering. The Election Commission (EC) is reportedly planning to introduce this filter for the entire 'promise-making' process.

The plan is to vet manifestos and see if parties are making promises that can not be fulfilled. Guidelines to ensure this already exists and the Commission regularly scrutinises such practices.

Recently, the EC had examined such complaints against the DMK and AIADMK after the Assembly Polls and had asked them for explanations.

While the Commission merely "advised" the DMK to be more circumspect and adhere to the provisions of Model Code of Conduct, it "censured" the AIADMK and gave it the same advice.

So, whats new?

What is new this time is that the EC is considering strict penalties in place of the light advice and censure that it presently issues to defaulting parties.

Parties would be asked to give an affidavit on a stamp paper to the Commission with their promises on it. They would also be asked to broadly explain how they intend to fulfill those promises.

If the EC finds them guilty of making tall promises without putting them on stamp paper, their symbol could be withdrawn.

Reports suggest that this plan could be seen put to action as early as the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

In Punjab, the governing Akali Dal has already announced several sops like regularisation of services of over 30,000 contractual employees, a Rs 50 lakh grant to war-widows and a price stabilisation fund to help farmers, among others.

If the EC formally implements its new rules, Akalis may be forced to think twice before putting these promises across on stamp paper.