PUTTING under a scanner freebies promised by the AIADMK and DMK in their poll manifestos, the Election Commission on Saturday issued notices to their respective party presidents J Jayalalithaa and
M Karunanidhi asking them to explain the rationale behind their promises and how they intend to fulfill them.
The notices, with virtually the same wording, say that prima facie the manifestos of the two parties “have not substantially fulfilled the guidelines of the Commission”.
Both parties have time till 5 pm on May 15, the EC said, “to explain your stand for non-compliance of the guidelines of the Commission and also reflect the rationale for the promises made in your manifesto and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirement for the same”.
In February 2014, the EC had introduced a new section on election manifestos in the Model Code of Conduct which carried several restrictions to desist parties from making announcements that “exert undue influence on voters in exercising their franchise”. The guidelines were brought in after the Supreme Court in July 2013 asked the EC to ensure a “level playing field” between contesting parties and candidates.
Although the above section on poll manifestos has been effective for two years, this is probably the first time the EC has issued showcause notices under it.
The EC warned the two leaders that if they failed to respond to its notice, it would take “appropriate action” against their parties “without further reference to them”. The state votes on May 16.
The commission reminded the two of section 3 in the code of conduct, which says that party manifestos must reflect the “rationale” for promises made, indicate the “ways and means” to meet them financially, and adds, “Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.”
The poll manifestos of the AIADMK and DMK have been in the spotlight for the sops promised by them. While the former has offered free mobile phones and 100 units of electricity, the latter has promised free 3G/4G connection.
A group of activists and representatives of NGOs had submitted a representation to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni this week, urging them to clean up manifestos. They argued that parties had been using freebies to divert the attention of voters from real issues such as development and employment.
In another decision, the EC Saturday night deferred the polls in Aravakurichi Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu, saying the electoral process there had been “seriously vitiated” due to unlawful activities of candidates and political parties in “bribing” of voters.
Election in the constituency will now be held on May 23 instead of May 16.
The EC order said FIRs had been lodged and Income Tax raids carried out at the premises of various political leaders showed that unaccounted money and gift items had been distributed to voters.