Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), has written the following letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India demanding withdrawal of the proposed amendment to the Model Code of Conduct. We are herewith releasing the text of the letter for publication.
Dear Shri Rajiv Kumar ji,
This is with reference to the Commission’s letter dated October 4, 2022 regarding the amendment to the Model Code of Conduct on promises made in election manifestos.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is of the considered opinion that the proposed amendment is uncalled for and should not be proceeded with for the following reasons:
1) Article 324 of the Constitution mandates the Election Commission with the superintendence, direction and control of elections. It does not provide for the Election Commission to regulate or evaluate the policy pronouncements and promises of welfare measures of political parties to the people at the time of an election. The proposed amendment to the Model Code of Conduct and the proforma for disclosure of the details of poll promises and their financial implications will get the Commission involved in political and policy matters which do not fall under its purview.
2) The proforma enters into areas such as quantification of the financial implications of the promises made and the fiscal sustainability of the additional resource raising plan for fulfilling the promises. These are political and policy issues and there can be divergent views of what constitutes “fiscal sustainability”. For instance, our Party is critical of the fiscal deficit limit fixed at 3 per cent of GDP in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. There are alternatives to the current prevailing ideas of fiscal conservatism.
3) The Election Commission had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court in April this year in a case being heard for reconsideration of the Subramaniam Balaji judgment. In that affidavit, the Commission had stated: “It is also stated that offering/distribution of any freebies either before or after the election is a policy decision of the party concerned. And whether such policies are financially viable or have adverse effect on the economic health of the State is a question that has to be considered and decided by the voters of the State”.
The Election Commission had also submitted that it cannot regulate State policies and decisions which may be taken by the winning party when they form the government. “Such an action, without enabling provisions in the law, would be an overreach of powers”.
This was a correct and valid stand taken by the Commission. It is, therefore, surprising that the Commission seems to have had a change of mind and proposes to be more intrusive into a sphere which pertains to political parties and the people.
4) The Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, N V Ramana, which heard the petition asking for a reconsideration of the judgment given in the Subramaniam Balaji case, decided on August 26, 2022 that the matter be heard by a three-member bench to be decided by the new CJI. So, the matter of election promises and the issue of `freebies’ etc. are still pending before the Supreme Court.
In such a situation, the Commission’s initiative to amend the Model Code of Conduct by introducing a proforma, which infringes on the rights of political parties to address people’s concerns and offer them policy and welfare measures, is unwarranted.
The CPI(M), therefore, wants the Commission to withdraw the proposal to amend the Model Code of Conduct.
General Secretary, CPI(M)