before you promise is the message for politicians. A group of NGOs
in West Bengal is going to scan manifestos of all parties,
sensitise people about their feasibility and keep a check on how
well they are implemented.
National Election Watch (NEW), a nationwide campaign comprising
over 1,200 NGOs and other citizen-led organisations working on
electoral reforms, improving democracy and governance in India,
will analyse the manifestoes to be released by the parties prior
to the April-May state assembly polls.
Thereafter, it will analyse whether the programmes and policies
are pro-people and democratic, said a member.
"Every year, political parties announce several programmes in
their manifestos, but in many cases, they do not fulfil their
commitment. So this year, we have decided to analyse the
manifestos immediately after they are released to make people
aware about the agenda of the political parties," Biplab Halim,
coordinator of NEW's West Bengal chapter, told IANS.
NEW is active in almost all states and has been monitoring
elections for state assemblies and the Lok Sabha since 2002.
But in a never before initiative, NEW would go through the
manifestos in detail and then inform the people about the benefits
"To spread awareness, we will hold three zonal level people's
conventions where experts, comprising representatives from all
sectors of the society, will scrutinise the manifestos. We will
also distribute leaflets containing the views of the experts in
every constituency, besides uploading them on the web and
releasing press statements," said Halim.
"Post-election, we will see if the parties are keeping their
promises or not. If they fail to keep their promises, we will
inform the people," said Halim.
The executive body of NEW's state unit, comprising former chief
justice of Calcutta High Court and Bombay High Court Chittatosh
Mookerjee, ex-state director general of police Amiya Samanta and
other eminent people, will also scrutinise the declarations made
by the candidates during filing of nominations.
"We will check their criminal background and assets. Our objective
is to ensure free and fair elections and improve democracy and
governance in the country," said Halim.
NEW's state chapter will also hold a citizens' convention in south
Kolkata by the month-end, he said.
Experts, civil society members and common people will be invited
to give their views on "intellectuals in the true sense".
"In our state, people who are called intellectuals are taking
sides of different political parties and campaigning for them. We
believe that intellectuals should be neutral and play an important
role in making people aware about the truth. So we have decided to
arrange this convention," said Halim.
However, the political parties gave mixed reactions on the
Ruling Left Front major, the Communist Party of India-Marxist
(CPI-M), welcomed the idea.
"Since the time we have been participating in the elections, we
have urged people to analyse the manifestos of all parties. Again,
in every pre-poll manifesto, we publish what all we had promised
the last time around and what we have achieved," said former MP
and CPI-M central committee member Mohammed Salim.
Main opposition Trinamool Congress was guarded. The party's all
India secretary and union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy
said: "We are neither welcoming nor denouncing it. Any civil
society or individual can analyse the manifestos".
The Congress, however, had reservations.
"I am not sure if it will be practical. All parties have separate
manifestos and in case a coalition government is formed, then it
is not possible to implement both parties' manifestos," said
Pradip Bhattacharya, a senior state Congress leader.
(Sabyasachi Roy can be contacted at email@example.com)