Eradicating Freebie Culture
For once, it seemed like the playing field for the future elections in India would change, in view of the spirited debate in public discourse about whether freebies promised to the electorate ahead of the poll should be allowed. The Supreme Court of India, the Election Commission and even the Central government had participated in the discussion. And, the recent development in Karnataka has laid bare the futility of the discourse, at least for now. With the state assembly elections slated to be held in a few months, the Karnataka Congress, in an attempt to take back its once bastion, has promised 200 units of free electricity monthly to each household if elected to power besides 10 kgs of free rice to the poor. As if that’s not enough, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday promised INR 2,000 a month to every woman head of households in the state, provided the party wins in the upcoming election. Its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has termed this move as “irresponsible and irrational”. While keeping the rationality of the move aside, a closer look at the electoral politics in the country will tell that the Congress is not alone in this game; almost all big political parties have jumped on the freebies bandwagon to woo voters at one point of time. Regional parties in south India are known for promising freebies, including gadgets to voters. Besides its various welfare schemes in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won the Punjab assembly election last year, riding on its promise of free 300 units of electricity to each household, cash for adult women, increase of old-age pension, etc. The BJP, which promised freebies like scooty to meritorious college girls, laptops to meritorious students and monetary incentives to poor girls, also had a landslide victory in 2022 Manipur Assembly election.
The final outcome – victory — has come in the way of attempts to do away with the freebies politics, as all political parties want to win at the end of the day. However, such practices that are meant just for attracting vote bank, without assessing the financial implications on the Centre or the state, have to be stopped. Certain welfare schemes that are meant for the underprivileged sections of society should not be mistaken with freebies in the form of gadgets, and that are not need-based. It’s time to stop letting political parties use tax-payers’ money in the form of irrational freebies to stay in power. Such practices are against the principle of free and fair election. The public too should not fall prey to such unethical practices that can adversely affect them later. We should know that there will be supply as long as there is demand.