Are political parties considering their manifestos a wasteful exercise? Have manifestos lost their relevance?
The answers may be yes considering the fact that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the BJP, and the so-called non-BJP, non-Congress Third Front are yet to make public their manifestos with the nation going to polls on Monday.
The ruling Congress and the debutant Aam Aadmi Party released their manifestos only last week.
While it is being said that lack of consensus on the content has delayed the release of BJP’s manifesto, the Third Front is still busy deciding its constituents and seems to have no time to prepare its manifesto.
Same is the case with the regional parties. JD(S), for example, is merely focusing on winning as many seats as possible to play a crucial role in the formation of the next government, but not on telling people what it stands for.
So, does this mean that the country, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world, will choose its government without knowing the agenda of its parties?
“Unfortunately, that is the scenario in India. Election manifestos never had any relevance right from the first general elections in the country,” said Prof Harish Ramaswamy of the Department of Political Science, Karnatak University.
Ramaswamy said people never took the manifestos seriously. He called it the ‘biggest drawback of our democracy.’
Well-known political analyst Prof Sandeep Shastri of Jain University, Bangalore, endorses Prof Ramaswamy’s view.
“Manmohan Singh, during his tenure as Union Finance Minister, had said that nobody reads manifestos. I do not think manifestos really impress voters or help parties get votes. It has been merely reduced to an intellectual and academic exercise in India,” Shastri said.
He also said more than the manifestos, it is the performance of the ruling party or the alliance that matters most in elections.
“For opposition parties, it is mainly how well they position themselves against the ruling party,” he said.
According to political pundits, the sad part of the election is that it is entirely engrossed by the Modi factor and not on issues concerning the people or country.
“It is Modi all over. It is either Modi praising or Modi bashing. This is not a good sign,” Ramaswamy said.