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‘Not your mandate’: Cong, DMK, Shiv Sena oppose EC move

"This is simply not the business of the EC. It goes against the very essence and spirit of competitive politics and will be yet another nail in the coffin of democracy in India," Jairam Ramesh said.

AICC general secretary in-charge of communication Jairam Ramesh. (Express Photo)

The Congress and many other opposition parties on Tuesday reacted strongly to the Election Commission’s move, asking the parties to detail the cost of poll promises and how these will be funded. The Congress bluntly told the EC that it has no business to intervene in such a manner and said it will oppose the move.

“This is simply not the business of the EC. It goes against the very essence and spirit of competitive politics and will be yet another nail in the coffin of democracy in India. 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,” AICC general secretary in-charge of communication Jairam Ramesh told The Indian Express. “We will oppose this strongly,” he added.

The RJD, DMK and the Shiv Sena, too, criticised the move. While the AIADMK took a cautious stand, the CPM said it is waiting for the official communication from the EC to formulate its view.

“When I saw this EC letter…my first observation was do they have the mandate to speak like this. If institutions start speaking beyond their mandate and start encroaching upon which is not their territory, what kind of democracy we are envisaging in the 75th year of India’s Independence,” senior RJD leader Manoj Jha told The Indian Express.

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“Would the Election Commission tomorrow speak about the Preamble of the Constitution itself which is the idea behind the welfare state. Would the EC start speaking against Directive Principles which is the idea behind providing relief to the poor citizens of the country,” he added.

“And I would also urge my government not to use these kinds of derogatory terms like ‘revdi’ and freebie which were done on the floor of Parliament more than 5-6 times. If we don’t stop such demonisation of our citizens, what is natural to them…what should be given to them…I think we are actually undermining the very idea of a welfare state,” he said.

Slamming the move, the Shiv Sena accused the EC of “overdoing its responsibility and interfering in established global norms at the behest of the central government”.

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“The lines of electoral democracy and administration of elections are getting blurred which is in line with how ED, CBI functions are becoming all-encompassing,” Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said.

“People vote for and dismiss governments through their vote…if election promises are not lived up to or the governments overspend then it is the sole right of the voter to make that choice. The EC is overdoing its responsibility and interfering in established global norms at the behest of the Central government,” she added.

She hoped the EC will also “seek accountability from those who come to power on lofty development goals and end up having to add more MGNREGA days and free ration schemes instead of promised jobs and prosperity”.

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Calling the EC move an onslaught on the directive principles of state policies, DMK Rajya Sabha MP P Wilson said the Election Commission’s constitutional brief is to conduct free-and-fair elections across the country. “At a time when this particular issue of freebies is sub-judice, the EC should have realised its limitations instead of coming into the area of governance under the guise of exercising powers. Who can say with a mathematical precision about the resources before polls?” he said.

Wilson asked if there was a lack of understanding about the basic process of governance. “Everything is already there in the public domain. There are enough checks and balances for proper financial management. Even if the government announces something, it has to be a policy decision, which is subject to revenue, and that is again subjected to the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003—an act of Parliament to ensure financial discipline. When we have such an effective system in place to flag irresponsible management of money by state and Union governments, why do they have such a plan at all? I feel that the EC may be working within the framework and brief. Yes, the EC is efficient in conducting free-and-fair elections, but they do not understand the needs of the people or the governance,” he said.

Wilson said the goal of government policies is to reduce inequality. “The directive principles of state policies and fundamental rights are two wheels of a chariot. If you look at the entire process of democracy and governance through a narrow prism of revenue, cost, and expenditure, the consequence would be nothing but a system that discourages uplifting the downtrodden,” he said. He further said that the free colour televisions distributed by the DMK regime a decade ago was not about entertainment but also about education and knowledge. He said Tamil Nadu has been focusing on free education and health for people for many decades because the state saw it as an investment in human resources… and you can see the results too,” he said.

AIADMK organisational secretary C Ponnaiyan said the EC move may be to make the electoral process more effective. “Anyway, all new governments will have plenty of ways to figure out resource mobilisation — from existing resources to mobilising money through taxes, borrowals, and contributions from benevolent sources. In the first Budget itself, this process happens, they find an answer about resource mobilisation,” he said.

First published on: 05-10-2022 at 07:03:49 am
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