The Election Commission on Tuesday proposed that political parties should provide details of how they will finance the promises made in their manifestos if elected to power.

The poll panel wrote in a letter to all recognised national and state parties about its proposal to amend the Model Code of Conduct guidelines to include the financial ramifications of promises in their manifestos and whether they are sustainable within the financial space of the state or the Union government.

“In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifesto also reflect the rationale and promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirement for it...,” the Election Commission said in its letter. “The trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.”

The poll panel has sought the views of the political parties by October 19.

The Election Commission’s letter came after Prime Minister Modi in July allegorically criticised certain forms of welfare, calling them “revdi” or sweets distributed in return for votes.

On August 10, Modi added that such announcements increase the burden on taxpayers and stop the country from becoming self-reliant.

At around the same time, the Supreme Court heard several rounds of arguments in a public interest litigation filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay, asking to outlaw the “promise of irrational freebies” and “private goods” made by parties during election campaigns in order to “lure voters in their favour”.

Last month, the Supreme Court had referred his petition to a three-judge bench.

In its letter on Tuesday, the poll panel said that while the Model Code of Conduct does require political parties to defend their promises or detail how they plan to finance them, the declarations by the outfits are “quite routine, ambiguous and do not provide adequate information to voters to exercise their informed choice in an election”.

It said that election promises have far-reaching ramifications.

“While the commission agrees in principle with the point of view that framing of manifestos is the right of political parties, it cannot overlook the undesirable impact of some of the promises and offers on the conduct of free and fair elections and maintaining a level playing field for all political parties and candidates,” the election body said.

The panel added that disclosure of financial details will allow voters to make informed electoral choices.

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Not EC’s business, says Congress

Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised the panel’s proposal with Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh saying that assessing the financial viability of an outfit’s poll promises is not the Election Commission’s concern.

“This is simply not the business of the EC,” he told The Indian Express. “It goes against the very essence and spirit of competitive politics and will be yet another nail on the coffin of democracy in India.”

Ramesh added: “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.”

Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged that the Election Commission was interfering on behalf of the Central government, reported the newspaper. Chaturvedi said that citizens can vote for and against governments if election promises are not fulfilled or if governments overspend.

She added that it was the sole right of the voter to make this choice.

“Will the EC seek accountability from those who came to power on lofty development goals [‘jumlas’] and job promises but ended up relying on MNREGA [‘monumental failure’] and free ration schemes instead of promised jobs and prosperity,” she asked in a tweet.