United For A Cause: Foes Congress, TMC On Same Page Over Freebies

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By: Joymala Bagchi | New Delhi
Updated: 06 November, 2022 10:19 am IST
TMC chief Mamata Banerjee with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi (file photo)

Congress and its breakaway Trinamool Congress (TMC) may be fighting it out for leadership of the Opposition bloc and have aired their differences in the public on several issues, but they stand united at least on one issue: promise of freebies in elections.

The debate over promises of providing certain goods and services to the public by political parties during election campaigns have gained momentum in the recent past, with several petitions being filed in the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking response of parties.

In the first week of October, the poll watchdog asked political parties to submit their responses on proposal changes to its manifesto guidelines under the model code of conduct regarding polls promises to require political parties to spell out how they would find resources to implement their pledges among other disclosures.

The commission had asked political parties to submit their replies by October 19. It is not clear what Congress and the TMC said in their official response, but the Grand Old Party has publicly opposed this move.

Reacting to the EC’s proposal, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh earlier said that neither the ECI and government nor courts have jurisdiction to regulate such issues. The commission should refrain from doing so, he had said.

Speaking in a similar tone, TMC lawmaker Derek O’Brien on Saturday said that the commission should first focus on conducting free and fair elections by efficiently implementing the laid down norms.

He also said that the ECI should look “neutral” during elections. Notably, the Congress party recently took a dig at the commission insinuating that it was unable to conduct fair elections.

On being asked about his reaction to the EC’s proposal on freebies, O’Brien said: “We have earnest respect for the Election Commission, and it pains me to say something against this constitutional institution. However, with all due respect, our opinion is that they should focus on upcoming polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. They must ensure that these elections are conducted in a free and peaceful manner.”

He further said: “The Election Commission has to be impartial, and it must look neutral.”

O’Brien reiterated his allegation that the BJP gas captured all constitutional institutions of the country, including the Election Commission.

The TMC MP also indicated foul play in the appointment of former Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Anup Chandra Pandey as an election commissioner in 2021.

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