The only people truly bound by campaign promises are the voters who believe them,” said the late Christopher Hitchens, British-American author, political journalist and literary critic.

With general elections around the corner, political parties are rolling out their manifestos which promise to make people’s lives easier. Energy is now a key component in manifestos — cheap cooking fuel (LPG) for households, easy access to electricity and green energy.

Energy transition finds an important place in the commitments made by political parties as they set out to woo the voters.

Before debating on the promises being made, let us look at some of the carrots dangled by the governments which are making their way into the manifestos too.

The Ujjwala scheme has now become a part of the narrative for nari shakti or women empowerment. Har ghar bijli (electricity for all), rooftop solarisation, muft bijli Ujala and energy transition — biomass and green hydrogen — are other schemes that have gained traction.

In the interim Budget 2024-25, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about rooftop solarisation and muft bijli undertaken during the NDA regime.

Though BJP is yet to release its manifesto, political strategists believe it will generally be an expansion of the commitments made in the 2019 manifesto and what was laid out in the interim Budget.

In her speech the FM had said: “Through rooftop solarisation, one crore households will be enabled to obtain up to 300 units of free electricity every month.”

According to her, under this scheme the benefits include: savings of up to ₹15,000-18,000 annually for households from free solar electricity and selling the surplus to distribution companies; charging electric vehicles; entrepreneurship opportunities for a large number of vendors for supply and installation, and employment opportunities for the youth with technical skills in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

Political messaging

The LPG subsidy scheme from successive governments are targetted at women. And BJP has been in the forefront.

Not to be left behind, the main Opposition Party, in its manifesto said: “Congress will provide clean cooking fuel at affordable prices to all households of the country. We will ensure that use of LPG cylinders is increased from current paltry average number of 3.7 per year among Ujjwala beneficiaries.

“In order to facilitate funding required for green transition and to achieve the goal of net zero by 2070, we will set up the Green Transition Fund of India together with State governments and the private sector,” it said. Congress also speaks about incentives to panchayats to establish and maintain solar grids that will generate power for common purposes and create jobs.

CPI (M), in its manifesto said: 12 LPG cylinders per year will be provided at subsidised rate with no Aadhaar linkages. On energy sector it said: “Reversing the policies promoting and establishing private monopolies in renewable energy sector, energy storage, and all future energy resource; establishing government’s decisive stake in renewable sector to protect our country’s energy sovereignty; devising a strong participatory mechanism to protect livelihood and economic scope of communities (especially coal workers) affected in the process of transitioning to renewable energy from fossil fuel.”

Ensuring affordable electricity at subsidised rates besides other promises to clean up the system finds its way into the Congress manifesto too.

The buzz in political circles is that BJP was waiting for Congress to release its manifesto first so that it could counter them, one thing is clear “energy” sector is being used to woo voters with promises to uplift their lifestyles and also generate jobs and create entrepreneurs. Basically, a tool to woo the aspirational Indian.

The vote factor

But will these measures fetch votes? After all the return on investments in the energy space is not immediate.

According to Dilip Cherian, communications consultant and a political and policy professional: “Energy transition is real for most people…how it will change life in the income sphere. Voters, particularly women are concerned about the cost of energy — LPG and electricity — as it has a direct impact on their domestic budget. So yes, promises are looked at critically by the voter.”

“Today energy is seen as source of income as well as expenditure. It has impact beyond rural India,” he added.

Harish Bijoor, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says, “Every promise is believed by some and distrusted by a larger number. Manifesto promises are therefore important. In a small way. But a meaningful manner. Political parties therefore make micro promises even and everything adds up.”

But parties held accountable when they don’t fulfil their promises? This is another debate for political strategists to analyse.

With increasing use of LPG, some analysts believe that there may be some voter fatigue over the promises made.

Back to energy and its relevance for wooing the voters — since the entire narrative is being changed and now it is being projected as an income generator for households, voters will definitely weigh the option, but they will also see the deliverables.

It is heartening to see energy gaining so much traction, but the voter cannot be taken for granted.