By Saurabh Gandhi:
Every time I hear the word ‘manifesto’, the face of Mulayam Singh Yadav flashes in front of my eyes. It was 2009 and I had started following politics just a few months back ever since the trust vote over the nuclear deal. It was election time and Mr. Yadav was releasing the manifesto of Samajwadi Party. I listened to him with shocked disbelief when he unveiled his anti-English and anti-computer manifesto. Compare this to the manifesto of the same party in the 2012 UP Assembly election which promised laptops to students. So, what caused this change of heart? Some attributed this to the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav in the party. But there is an undercurrent here. Look at the following facts:
Obviously, the anti-incumbency against the ruling party and the fresh face of Akhilesh Yadav, combined with the caste and religious equations, played a role in the massive success in 2012 but then Akhilesh Yadav had used technology in the election management to a huge extent, making sure that wherever he campaigned, he mentioned his promise of providing laptops and tablets. This won him the undecided young voter which had drifted apart from the party in 2009 and shifted to the Congress.
Having established that the manifesto of a political party can affect the results of an election, let us look at a few reasons why we need a people’s manifesto and not one prepared by the high command:
1. Sops V/S Needs – Advertising makes you buy things you do not need. We have all heard of this statement. But what about manifestos of political parties? Are they any different from advertisements? Okay, you are promising me free colour TV’s, I can’t say no to that even though I don’t have uninterrupted power supply. You are promising me a laptop; I really need that but what about quality education so that I can make good use of the laptop instead of just looking at your irremovable face on the desktop or even selling it! Manifestos often focus on the superficial and ignore the things we really need.
2. Generalities V/S specifics — “If we come to power, we will ensure good roads, secure environment for women, faster delivery of services, and the latest one, employment to one crore people.” Even if the intentions behind these promises are genuine, how do you judge their performance? There may be flyovers in Delhi but then there are also jhuggi jhopris in the city (as highlighted in this story). I think the AAP has come up with a novel idea of different manifestos for each constituency. This can ensure that there is greater focus on those little problems that we face daily.
3. Long-term issues V/S Short-term issues — Manifestos are in focus during the elections when all that the party is thinking about is winning the election. So, a whole gamut of long-term issues is conveniently forgotten. Onion prices rise so the Government sells onion at cheaper rates for a few days. What about the fundamental problem that Delhi faces because it is a zero-agricultural productivity state as the CM repeatedly says? What about the Naxal problem in Chhattisgarh — will it be solved through force or development or a combination of both?
4. India V/S Bharat — There really is a division between the haves and the have-nots. For some, reservation in educational institutions can be a game changer in their life. For others, this same reservation can be a set back because they couldn’t get a seat in spite of their merit. For some the Food Security Act is a blessing. For others, it is just a huge burden on the state exchequer which can lead to a downgrade for India from world’s rating agencies. How do we balance both the sides? The tax payer would certainly not mind the social expenditure if he was sure that the money would not be embezzled.
5. Expertise V/S People’s mood — Democracy is all about the people. But there are certain issues where expertise has to take precedence over people’s mood. Take the issue of climate change. Rightly put by the Foundation For Democracy and Sustainable Development, “Democratic decision-making on climate change needs to allow room for the latest and best scientific evidence; but the evidence needs to be communicated in ways that allow people to deliberate and make fully informed decisions. To put it another way: experts should be on tap, but not on top.”
Obviously, we are in a representative democracy rather than a direct one, meaning we can only choose people who will take decisions on our behalf. But there is no law stopping us from influencing their decisions. In fact it is both our right and duty to make them aware of our legitimate views and demands. There is no shortage of the number of ways in which we can do this. Here are a few of them:
1. YouthKiAwaaz offers you an opportunity to let the leaders know what your manifesto looks like through this campaign: unManifesto.
2. Apart from this, the two national political parties have their own websites for receiving your suggestions:
– Indian National Congress – incmanifesto.in
– Bharatiya Janata Party – bjpelectionmanifesto.com
So, do voice your concerns. In the end, if they don’t listen, you have your biggest weapon: “Your Vote”!