This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pranjali Singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Explained: How To Read Between The Lines In An Election Manifesto

More from Pranjali Singh

With the election just around the corner, both parties and the people are gearing up to bring their favoured parties to power. The media is already full of debates, memes, mock polls, predictions and so on. While people do their own bit by arguing, discussing and convincing their friends and acquaintances to vote for a certain party. And the parties, of course, organise rallies.

At least that’s the healthy picture of a campaign that we like to imagine, while pretending that the violence, hollow promises, discriminatory political tactics, etc. do not exist; the operative word here is pretend, but let’s not go into that for now.

In this active rush of campaigning we often forget about the document that forms the basis of the entire campaign, i.e. a party’s election manifesto.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a manifesto is “a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.”

But just like Indian politics, a manifesto is dynamic, diverse, sometimes misleading, and therefore must be handled and read with care. Here are a few tips for you before you pick up this document and decide about where you would like to make your vote count.

Read A Manifesto

The first step to understanding a manifesto is to actually read one. Most of us make do with summaries or reviews in the news and media, which have the drawback of being biased, or opinionated, and thus manipulate our views, with the viewers being none the wiser.

Thus reading the original document helps us to notice certain points that the summaries and second hand information miss out on. A critical reading is only possible without a middleman in between.

Notice The Tone

While reading a manifesto one should notice its tone. It’s easy to judge, and says a lot about the party. Is the tone too confident? Is it more emotionally driven, but lacks facts and practicality? Is it accusatory towards the opposition?

All these and many more questions can help us understand the attitude of the party towards problems. If its focus is too much on the criticism of the opposition, then it is more concerned about its place rather than the actual working and development. Such governments do not last long and often break as there is hardly any common agenda apart from their mutual rivalry with the opposition.

If the manifesto is heavily dependent on the emotional aspect and rhetorical way of persuasion, then it likely lacks solid plans and substance to sway the public.

The tone and phrasing also gives an idea about how the party would handle stressful situations.

Long And Short Term Goals

Go through the goals and the agendas of the party: long term and short term. We should see if the long term goals are impractical and out of reach; if so, then the promises are basically hollow and are only there to attract voters. We should check if the long term goals also have a long term plan, which is feasible and realistic.
The short term goals are just as important. A lot of short term promises are extremely appealing, but have no overall economic or social benefit, make sure to stay cautious if you encounter such marketable, but damaging, strategies.

An article on LiveMint throws light on the matter, “Currently, the long-term goals are vague. The 2014 INC manifesto mentions promotion of a “more flexible labour policy” and “greater integration with [the] global economy”, but it doesn’t hint at what these lofty goals will entail. Likewise, the BJP manifesto stated that “administrative reforms will be a priority for the government” and will be “implemented through an appropriate body under the [Prime Minister’s Office] PMO”, but it doesn’t tell us what these administrative reforms encompass.”

Financial Resources

No government document is complete without the financial aspect of it, and a manifesto is no exception. In fact most manifestoes try to sneak past this particular point as it is the link which reveals the solidarity, or its lack, in their plans. If a party is making mighty pronouncements about development and tax relief, it’s important that it also tells us where it is planning to get the funds from. A cut in taxes has huge impact on the national funds, how is a party planning to compensate for the loss? Or how is it planning to source financial aids for the projects?

This point is a weak link, and it’s always easy to spot.

Compare And Contest

Compare the manifesto with that of other parties and see the similarities and dissimilarities in them, check the various approaches to a problem the other parties are taking. It helps us figure out which party is focused more on what, and it also lets us see the ‘hows’ of the issues.

Also see which party actually sticks to its manifesto and at least tries to meet it, and which one does not. It’s also a good way to see which party follows up with its promises.

Compare the document with that of the past year’s. See if there is any change or improvement, or if it’s the same old flattering words being served to us just with different packaging.

Who Are The Beneficiaries?

No party will explicitly say anything in a written document that could hamper its appeal, but we must be careful about what is being omitted. Parties try to favour certain communities and vote banks, but they never do it explicitly and always try to sugarcoat it. It is here where they omit the most.

Therefore its important that we are aware of the beneficiaries of the party’s past projects and actions. See if the benefitting community coincides too much with the ethnic identity of the members of the party, to the point where the empowerment of one community is unjustly done at the cost of the others. This also says a lot about how the party will deal with the varied ethnic identities and communities in the constituencies, and its treatment of marginalized and backward sections of the society.

All in all, there is no one strict formula of evaluating an election manifesto. We should be politically aware, read the news, watch debates around these documents and hear what the critics have to say as it helps us get a different and broader perspective.

However, Indian election manifestos tend to go unread. Most of them are vague, or similar, and sometimes seem like a formality. But this drift of the importance of manifestos in the world of market and digital campaigns is talk for another time; for now, let’s try and understand what we already have.

Featured image source: Dainik Jagran/YouTube.
You must be to comment.

More from Pranjali Singh

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Ridhima Manocha

By Ishaan Bansal

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below