On the face of things, the Election Commission telling political parties that they can no longer get away with making wild promises is a great idea given how voters have been taken for a ride on so many occasions. But asking political parties to “broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for (election promises)” is easier said than done. Should a political party promise to raise health spending to 6% of GDP, it can always say the tax-to-GDP ratio will be raised 2-3 percentage points once GST is a reality. Would this be enough, or will the EC want proof of how the political party plans to get the legislation through Parliament? And how is a political party to justify including a 10-million jobs per year target in its manifesto? Or a new Telangana state?
It is important here to draw a distinction between what is desirable and what is feasible? Restraining political parties from making wild promises is certainly desirable but how feasible is this? In which case, chances are the new rules will be followed as much in the breach as those regarding the spending limits on elections. In any case, since political parties have to go back to people, their outrageous promises get exposed over a period of time. If people still vote for parties who seem to have betrayed their trust, it may not be because voters are swayed by their promises—it may just have to do with lack of more credible alternatives.