Simply not EC’s business: Congress on poll watchdog’s freebies letter

The Congress on Thursday said the Election Commission’s recent proposal to change the model code goes against the spirit of competitive politics and will be “yet another nail in the coffin of democracy”.

The EC has asked all recognised national and state political parties to provide authentic information to voters on the financial viability of their poll promises, saying inadequate disclosures have far-reaching ramifications.

The EC has asked parties to submit their views by October 19.

A former chief election commissioner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the proposal should have been made after the Supreme Court decided on the pleas pertaining to “freebies vs welfare measures”.

The apex court had in August said the pleas be listed before a three-judge bench, noting that the issues needed “extensive” hearing.

“After that, the EC should have stepped in taking forward the decision of the apex court,” he said.

Asked about the development, Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh said it was simply not the business of the Election Commission.

“It goes against the very essence and the spirit of competitive politics and will be yet another nail in the coffin of democracy in India,” he said.

None of the welfare and social development schemes that have been transformational over the decades would ever have become a reality if such a bureaucratic approach had been in place, Ramesh added.

The former CEC wondered how the poll panel could decide what the voters sought and what they did not.

He was of the view that the proforma proposed by the EC “looks like the function of the Executive”.

Several parties have raised their opposition, with the Left parties saying it was not the poll body’s job to
“regulate” policy pronouncements.

In its letter, the EC said, “The Commission notes that the consequences of inadequate disclosures by political parties get attenuated by the fact that elections are held frequently, providing opportunities for political parties to indulge in competitive electoral promises, particularly in multi-phase elections, without having to spell out their financial implications more particularly on committed expenditure.” The poll panel said if the parties make adequate disclosures on the financial implications of their promises, the electorate will be able to make informed poll choices.

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