When it comes to election manifestos, wishes are always horses and politicians always ride them. Some of them would even engage in a form of dressage.
By its very nature, the manifesto represents the very best version of an issuing political party. It is almost invariably aspirational and subjunctive. It is a fantasy version. Manifestos tend to be mostly unexceptionable because they represent the loftiest ideals of a political party. Because wishing is easier than actually doing it, manifestos of all political parties should be taken with an entire salt pan.
Reading the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 2014 manifesto one is struck by how hard its leaders have tried to put the best version of their party. If there is an overriding theme to it, it is a fusion of efficient governance and inclusive growth using information technology (See the image above). To that end, the party also promises wi-fi in all public places and commercial centers. I am not sure whether it means free wi-fi or just easy access to wi-fi.
Of course, like all political parties, the BJP too displays its obsession for three this and four that. For instance, it speaks of 5Ts—Trade, Tourism, Talent, Technology, Tradition, 4 Ps—People-Public-Private-Partnership and 3 Es—EGovernance—Easy, Efficient and Effective (3Es). Politicians love such threesomes and foursomes because they think voters love those as well.
Egovernance has been given a high priority on the party’s wish list and if you were not told you might think this bit is taken from the Congress Party’s manifesto. Egovernance is a baby both political parties are desperate to establish their paternity on even though, purely factually, it was the Congress that introduced very early versions of that in the mid 1980s under then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It is to the BJP’s credit that it makes it sound successfully as if they are the biggest proponents of egovernance.
Having read numerous manifestos for more than three decades in journalism, I feel jaded about their idealism. The chasm between the intent in any given manifesto and what its issuer often ends up doing is so wide that one wonders whether there is any point issuing it in the first place.
There has to be a way whereby at the end of a political party’s or grouping’s tenure, their should be a serious and detailed audit of how much of their commitment in their manifesto actually got implemented. There has to be an independent rating agency that issues a clear report card about the extent of the implementation of a manifesto with the specific idea that whatever did not get implemented—which is often the majority—ought to be carried forward to the time whenever that party or grouping returns to power.