Views & Reviews
Freebie Politics: Quick Passport To Democratic and Fiscal Disaster
As the poll season in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat is round the corner, political parties are busy planning to lure the electorate with their promises which also include freebies. Over the years the politics of freebies has become an integral part of the electoral battles. Suddenly it looks as if the sky has opened up, It is raining freebies. It happens every five years.
In election what matters today is not the performance of the political parties but intelligent packaging of freebies. It is in this context that one is reminded of Gresham’s law: When the good circulates with the bad, bad drives out the good. When ideology is reduced to rhetoric; economics is buried fathoms deep
Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of Representation of People’s (RP) Act, but Election freebies have occupied prominent places in election manifestos, sops and incentives rain down in the election year and the focus on good governance has taken a back seat. freebies promised by the political parties are rampant. To woo the voters, there have been inorganic competitions among political parties in dispensing incentives through public distribution system (PDS) in various states.
Provision of a series of promises done by political parties by providing free electricity, free public transport, free water and waiver of pending bills and loans are often regarded as freebies.
As per the Report of SBI Advisor, Telangana has committed 35 per cent of revenue receipts to finance populist schemes, while Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Kerala have all committed to spend 5-19 per cent of their revenue receipts on such schemes. There is a slew of sops like Janmabhoomi in Andhra Pradesh; Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation and Peoples Empowerment – Enabling Transparency and Accountability of Odisha Initiatives in Odisha; Raithu Bandhu for farmers’ development in Telangana; power subsidy in Delhi; farmer loan waiver by the Ashok Gehlot government on the first day of its office in Rajasthan; Kanyashree scheme for girls in West Bengal; Rs 1 per kg, Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme for healthcare facility, one tola gold to brides, Rs 25,000 to widows in Assam. The State government in Tamil Nadu had provided subsidised food through Amma canteens before the state’s 2016 election. In the last state election in Karnataka, Congress promised smart phones to students whereas the BJP assured free smartphones to women from BPL families.
At present the Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat has promised to provide 300 units of free electricity to all domestic consumers. . The Congress party in Himachal Pradesh has promised Rs1,500 per month women and 300 units of free electricity. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi promised that his party will give to people all the freebies offered by the AAP so far. The BJP has so far taken the stand that it was in the race of giving freebies to people and warned voters to be wary of the AAP’s promises.
The prevalence of “freebie culture” is not a good thing for a healthy democracy and economy as fulfilling the freebie promises takes a lot of damage to the economy and always sacrifice economic sense. Freebies promised by political parties in their election manifestos to lure voters shake the roots of free and fair polls and in the long run, will hamper democracy by ending disturbing the level playing field.
Election perks are generating public debt and long-term economic and political consequences which are ultimately going to be grave. Freebies race could lead to bankruptcy of States’. Economic turmoil in Sri Lanka is an example of repercussion of freebie politics
Sunning up, while talking about the promises made during the election campaigns, solely considering the political aspect is not wise, it is also important to keep in mind the economic part because ultimately the budgetary allocation and resources are limited. Politics and economy should go hand in hand when talking about freebies.
Prof Mithilesh Kumar Sinha
Department of Economics
Nagaland University, Lumami