Off Manifestos & ….. Mandates

A ritual of issuing manifestos precedes democratic process in India to elect State & Central Governments. Manifestos otherwise are important piece of declaration about the agenda of political parties they propose to fulfill if voted to power.

That we all know, but the promises made mainly by mainstream political parties have become longer in content & louder in commitment beyond the comprehension of average citizen of this country. Except key issues that concern broader population, I don’t assume an average citizen has the eagerness to read or unrelenting faith on wish list of manifestos. The key political parties also detail the plan outlay of expenditure on various heads like health care, education, infrastructure etc and if one were to add up the maths of these numbers, any one would wonder the veracity of such exorbitant claims & essentially the resources needed to accomplish them. Tall promises and big numbers have rendered these documents non-interesting subjects of study by an average Indian. However every political party manifestos have couple of key issues, which actually become the tag line during their respective campaigns.

Manifestos are important in so far as Agenda of a political party it wishes to fulfill and solicit votes. It ought to be brief, concise and touch key burning issues the country faces and of course is innovative, path breaking & guiding document to steer the country into a directions, which engages almost every citizen directly & indirectly. People don’t get engaged to a manifesto, which is inclusive of long promises and gets lost in the maze of commitments. Hence a manifesto has to address the most burning issues and the issues facing & touching every citizen of this country to enable the people truly sit, scan & seriously decide their mandate. Manifesto needs to address the most pressing needs at the time it’s issued and same can & would vary from election to election.

The sanctity and importance of this document must be restored by a statutory approval. Election commission the statutory body for elections must vet the document of each political party before its release. This document must become fundamental decision making source for public to decide their mandate hence needs statutory stamp of approval. Further the elected Govt. must be required to publish the comparative status of what was promised in the document and actual achievements to make it important piece of information for everyone, this will cut down claims and counter claims of political parties about their achievements.

What should not be part of manifesto…..

In my opinion, every Govt. coming to power at State & Central level have some implied responsibilities irrespective of what they state in their manifestos.

Let us talk of national security. National security is a prime responsibility of any Govt. to maintain sovereignty, integrity, law & order, citizen protection and a responsibility enshrined by the constitution of the country on any Govt. Therefore it cannot be logically a manifesto item. Does it mean if it’s not part of

manifesto, it’s not the responsibility of the Govt.? Again economic development is also key responsibility of any government, if a country is already a 2.5 trillion economy and at a normal rate of growth it’s likely to become a 5 trillion economy over a period of 7 years then the manifesto can at best say how they propose to accelerate the growth from 7 years to say 5 years so that the people can appreciate the plan & contribution of the party if voted to power.

There are many promises & assurances, which in my opinion are prime obligations of any right wing, left wing or a centralist government if voted to power and therefore cannot be a manifesto agenda. It’s like a candidate saying in interview, I will work hard, honestly, in the interests of the company, fulfill my responsibility hence give me the job. If he wouldn’t say all of that, can anyone assume none of it becomes his/her obligation?

My Manifesto for 2019 elections ought to contain the following 5 items, which cover all citizens of this country directly & indirectly and are the most burning and pressing issue before the country. They will address the socio economics aspirations of practically entire population of this Country.

  1. Jobs – Detailed plan of the party to create & generate jobs to bring down unemployment
  2. Farmers distrust – Plan to modernise farming, improve yields, realisation to farmers
  3. Revival of private capital investment – One of the most sticky issues of reviving private investment.
  4. Quality of life of an average citizen – Detailed plan to improve basic quality of life of an average citizen.
  5. Judicial reforms – Much needed judicial reforms & disposal of cases languishing in different courts.

One would wonder how the foregoing five elements would make a formidable manifesto.

Let me briefly elucidate & demonstrate how the above five pressing needs touch every citizen & needs of a growing economy like India

  1. Jobs: Generation of jobs or employment opportunities remain the most important & prioritized agenda of any government. Unfortunately, India does not have any acceptable index to measure the rate of unemployment & growth in employment. The assessment is done on the basis of output of students graduating each year and relative availability of jobs. Some statistics provide that the rate of unemployment is the highest in the country, which is a serious issue before the country. It’s to be understood that if the country is growing at 6-7% each year and massive spending is happening on infrastructure building, it necessarily doesn’t create sufficient jobs or employment opportunities. Manifesto must lay down a detailed road map, as how the government is going to create jobs year on year basis. The document must provide estimated number of unemployed or underemployed population, additions of people to job market, number of jobs or employment opportunities the Govt. details to create and finally number of unemployed at the end of five years. Generalistic statements on jobs growth in manifestos carry less meaning & sense. If the manifesto is addressing job growth to the satisfaction of people, it will address majority of Indian population, means the job aspirants, prospective job applicants in colleges and the concerned parents. Imagine this detailed & satisfactory agenda will touch every Indian directly & indirectly.
  1. Farmers & agriculture sector: This is one of the critical components of our GDP growth. We have seen farmer distrust rising year after year in different parts of the country. It has been a convenient formula with successive Govt. to award subsidies & doles in form of waivers but it has helped little to address the long term problems being faced by the farmers. Farmers constitute a sizeable & important community of our country & agriculture economy is all based on their well-being.

Manifesto must address how technology would be expedited to help the sector in productivity & conservation of output. Lot of agriculture out in the form of wheat, vegetable & fruits still perish before it reaches consumers. Farmers unarguably don’t get proper compensation for their output & get burdened with loans & consequent suicides. Farm loan waiver is a convenient election agenda for any political party but that’s not the long term solution to farmers & sector as a whole.

Manifesto must provide a detailed plan, which may be imbibed by yearly budgets. Obviously the plan will capture the country’s consumption needs, possible plan allocation and balancing the economics of farmers. Farmers under such situations can clearly appreciate what’s expected from the Govt. to plan their produce and required cash flow. It will dispense the need of financial support, which has unfortunately become a big political competition at the time of elections.

  1. Revival of private capital investment: If the country direly needs anything today, it’s the revival of private capital investment. It’s generally believed that the investment has gone down in the previous years mainly due to non- availability of credit from banks due to problems of NPA’s but I tend to differ.

Private capital investment in the country has become insignificant due to variety of reasons and availability of credit may be one of the reasons but not main reason. A lot of homework on following fronts to revive the capital investment is needed with the active & collaborative cooperation from Central & State Govt.

  1.  Rationalisation of land acquisition to make it time bound & seamless process. b) Streamlining approval process with strict time lines.
  2.  Tax incentives & tax concessions to attract serious investment.
  3.  National financing institution to support equity financing.
  4.  Debt financing from banks with a restructuring option unlike the current regulations of restructuring which is a deterrent for financing.

Quality of life of an average citizen: When a political party talks about expansion in economy & growth, it talks about an inevitable and something which is obligatory on any Govt. as discussed in the earlier part of this article. Growth is what translates the quality of life of an average citizen in the country and would ideally cover everything from infrastructure to environment. The plans proposed by must be realistic in time & cost and what is expected to be completed in 5 years of Govt. Economic development must reflect the changes in the quality and standard of every citizen of the Country. Growth of economy must bring improved civic amenities even to the lower strata of society to appreciate the incentive of growth. People have right to know how their life is likely to change over the next 5 years with the proposed initiatives of the party.

Judicial reforms: This is one area where there’s least attention of political parties & less concern by the Govt. in office. There are estimated 40 million cases pending in different courts of the country and most of them dragging for years. It’s strange that a case of murder takes years to decide leave aside milder criminal & civil cases. 40 million cases would by simple arithmetic mean min 80 mn people involved on both sides with equal number of lawyers, hence 160 mn population at base case are engaged in legal cases which consumes administrative infrastructure & loss of unascertainable productive loss to the country.   Country’s vibrant judicial system is critical for its economic & social structure. It bestows right, protection, safety, ease of doing business and respect all law abiding & complaint people. Therefore I would put it top agenda item of manifesto.

Detailed mechanism to include:

  1. Rationalization & Simplification of various laws to remove the ambiguities.
  2. Expansion of Courts and appointments of Judges.
  3. One time settlement proposal for cases of mild economic offences in cases filed by or on behalf of Govt.
  4. Overall a Judicial Reform Committee to bring down number of outstanding cases from 40mn to 20mn over a period of 10 years.

The above five agendas would invariably include all citizens and societies.

A focused and concentrated effort by the Govt. with a sound performance appraisal may secure future mandates and make manifestos the dependable document for seeking such mandates.