The manifestos of the political parties, compiled after much research and pain, reflect the unique visions and ideologies of the respective parties.
The manifestos show the parties, old and new, have a firm grip on the ground realities and situation in the country.
All of the manifestos have also included the big ticket items like the economy, rural development, youth employment, good governance, private sector development, corruption, foreign policy, health, education, etc.
It also comes as a welcome note to the media and the society at large that political parties have brought forward important issues like media freedom, Right to Information (RTI), transparency, and promises to clean up the system.
Though some criticism has generated on the manifestos sounding similar, it is also not possible for any party to miss out on the big issues facing the 2013 elections.
Some of the major points might be similar, but what is important is the interpretation on the causes of the problems, and the solutions that vary that from party to party.
Another criticism is that some of the manifestos are sounding too ambitious, and such goals would be difficult to achieve- given the budgetary limitations. And like in the 2008 elections, where manifestos were linked to the 10th Five Year Plan (FYP), the 2013 manifestos are aligned to the upcoming 11th FYP and its size as well.
In the 2008 elections, the winning DPT’s manifesto was similar to the 10th FYP. The party could, therefore, work on fulfilling many of its promises by simply following the 10th FYP, after making some changes or shortening the target dates.
In fact, the majority of the 150 pledges that the DPT claims to have fulfilled are those that had already been incorporated in the 10th FYP, in some form or the other, even before DPT came to power. The funding had already been secured, and the system was already in place for implementation.
The political leadership, unlike the popular perception, did not have to build up everything from scratch, but had to provide focus and attention to the implementation of the 10th FYP.
It is interesting to note that most of the promises and programs that DPT could not fulfill were those outside the 10th FYP, like making Bhutan- a health, education, and services hubs, getting investments, making Bhutan more business friendly, etc.
A manifesto is an important document for the voters, as it gives them an idea of the party’s plans and programs, and also gives them a measurable basis on the performance of the party.
However, if the above were the only criteria then consultants and professors should be winning elections.
There are other important criteria that go along with the content of the manifesto, such as the credibility and integrity of political party and its leaders, and the sincerity of the party on its manifesto promises.
It is not just the quantity, but the quality of content in the manifestos that matter to the voters.
A hidden aspect of manifestos is that in the 2008 elections, many candidates in addition to their party manifestos were elected on the basis of their individual manifestos as well.
As soon as the DPT came into power, such widely distributed individual manifestos with constituency specific promises to voters were not discussed again. From 2008 to 2013, the elected MPs, apart from their law making functions, did not really hold themselves accountable for fulfilling their individual manifestos.
It is now, during the 2013 elections that people are demanding for capable MPs as they have realized that only a dynamic MP can get things done for them, and get their voices in the corridors of power.
Even in the government’s glowing appraisal of itself, the targets achieved, stuck to its party manifesto driven by the 10th plan and there was no mention of what happened to these individual constituency manifestos.
A manifesto is ultimately is a piece of paper, and what matters is, if the parties can offer new ideas, style and substance to lead the country out of the economic downturn, and other pressing issues.
As of now, the manifestos show promise, but it is up to the voters to decide which party or parties have it in them to deliver the goods.
“When one with honeyed words but evil mind
Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”