Politics of poll promises in Karnataka

With the two main rivals in the Karnataka Assembly elections—the Congress and BJP—releasing their manifestos, voters have enough time to weigh the two sets of documents for what they are worth and mak

Published: 07th May 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th May 2018 02:19 AM   |  A+A-

With the two main rivals in the Karnataka Assembly elections—the Congress and BJP—releasing their manifestos, voters have enough time to weigh the two sets of documents for what they are worth and make an informed choice. While wooing voters with promises is the norm in polls across the world, what rankles the Indian voter is the tendency of parties to make tall and impractical promises only to go back on them once the votes are counted.

The manifestos of both the Congress and BJP are full of welfare-oriented promises that are sure to be a drain on the state’s resources if implemented. Here, the parties enjoy an unfair advantage—they are allowed to make all kinds of promises but are not bound to disclose how they will find the means to fulfil them. What that means is most of these promises remain a mere tool to win over the voters, and their fulfilment is governed by factors that come into the picture only after the elections.

It should ideally be left to voters to decide who offers them a better bargain, but the BJP does seem to have got one up on the Congress when it comes to the sheer number of promises and their potential mass appeal. If Congress promised to spend Rs 1.25 lakh crore for irrigation, the BJP increased the figure to Rs 1.5 lakh crore. While both promised sops for farmers, women, students, Dalits and the poor, the BJP made the potentially game-changing announcement of waiver of farm loans up to Rs 1 lakh. The Congress manifesto had specific measures aimed at minorities, and the BJP pandered to its Hindu vote bank through promises like prohibition of cow slaughter and a recommendation to ban Muslim organisation PFI—an example of how divisive agendas invariably creep into poll narratives.

Now that the promises have been made—though JD(S) is yet to come out with its list of sops—the parties should stop trying to run down each other’s manifesto. Voters are smart enough to separate wheat from the chaff, and the parties will know how they did on May 15.

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