The changing colours of election promises

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Mar 24, 2011

Earlier, the main pledge of parties revolved around provision of “roti, kapda aur makaan” (food, clothing and housing) in return for votes, later moved on to “bijli, sadak, paani” (electricity, roads and water) promise.

Modern nations are supposed to move on. If the evolution of promises in the election manifestos of political parties are any indication, this dictum certainly would hold for India.

Till about three decades ago, the main pledge of parties revolved around provision of “ roti, kapda aur makaan ” (food, clothing and housing) in return for votes.

From around the 1990s, some parties began appending “ bijli, sadak, paani ” (electricity, roads and water) to the earlier “ roti, kapda aur makaan ” promise – never mind, if the latter still eluded a majority of the population.

Then, as the effects of reforms percolated with the economy being propelled into a new growth trajectory, the platter of electoral promises underwent a further diversification. These were, in turn, reflective of the wider variety of goods the Indian consumer could aspire to, if not choose, from the marketplace.

Interestingly, in the political marketplace, too, the voter now has a wider choice.

With the dominance of the Congress over and a ‘stable' two-party system not taking its place, the electorate today can opt for national parties, regional parties, caste-based parties, majoritarian parties or minorities-focussed parties.

The first real evidence of political parties recognising the changed aspirations of voters came with the Grand Old Party itself talking more about the aam aadmi (common man) than simply the garib (poor) in its 2004 general election manifesto.

Southern trend

Then came what would have been unthinkable even a decade back. For the 2006 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) promised not just Rs 2 a kg rice and waiver of cooperative loans to farmers, but even free colour televisions to every family that did not have one “for women's recreation and general knowledge”.

The DMK's manifesto for the coming Assembly polls has gone a step further – laptops to all students. Not to be left behind, its rival, the All India Anna DMK (AIADMK), has also committed free fans, mixers, grinders, mineral water and four grams of gold to the poor.

The Indian voter surely couldn't have asked for more! Whether he gets them is a different issue.

Published on March 24, 2011
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