Parties Fight EC’s Move to Regulate Election Freebies : ‘It Is Our Prerogative’

it-is-our-prerogativeMajor political parties barring the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) opposed any restriction on them in announcing freebies in election manifestos, claiming that this was their prerogative. The Election Commission had convened a meeting of various national and regional political parties convened to seek their views on the issue of freebies offered by them in poll manifestos and framing of guidelines thereof. Representatives of five national and 23 regional parties attended the recent meeting and conveyed their respective party stands on the issue of framing of guidelines on election manifestos by the poll body.
Except for BSP, all major national political parties were unanimous in their views that there should be no restriction of any kind in regulating election manifestos. The BSP said that there should be a ban on announcing freebies by parties ahead of polls as they disturb the level-playing field as voters can be lured by such promises of allurements which may not be implemented later. Sources said among the regional parties, only two – Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) and Mizo National Front (MNF), are in favour of banning freebies and framing guidelines in this regard and all others are opposed to the move.
Claiming that it is the right of parties to announce poll manifestos, the Congress, BJP and Left parties are on a common platform in opposing the EC move in the wake of the Supreme Court judgement asking the Commission to frame guidelines on poll manifestos to regulate freebies. The EC wishes to formulate a clear policy on defining freebies announced by parties ahead of elections and has studied practices adopted by different nations in this regard. The Commission has felt that offering of freebies by parties ahead of polls disturbs the level playing field and may vitiate the atmosphere. The Supreme Court while disposing of a special leave petition on July 5, challenging the freebies announced by the Tamil Nadu Government, had asked the Commission to frame guidelines about such promises announced by political parties in their manifestos.
– PTI

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