AA Edit | BJP in MP gives the lie to PM's tall talk on freebies

The pattern evident in Indian electoral politics in the last two decades has been that people reward parties whose actions speak loudly

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioning people against believing “false guarantees” goes well with the theme he has been advancing against his political opposition. He has been warning the electorate against those making tall promises ahead of polls, especially regarding freebies that come at a cost.

It may be noticed that Mr Modi has chosen to stick to this line even after the Karnataka Assembly elections have gone in favour of the Congress Party which extended “five guarantees” aimed at easing the lives of ordinary people. There are now reports that both the Congress and the BJP are preparing their respective freebie lists ahead of the upcoming Madhya Pradesh elections. CM and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan has already started doling out cash to homemakers.

It is important there be a meaningful discussion on the desirability of political parties presenting voters with manifestos containing freebies and subsidies with very little detail on how to implement and/or fund them. Once in power, most parties either go back on such promises or fulfil them in negligible volumes and in an unsustainable fashion. It is interesting that Mr Modi wants voters to be careful, however, when the record of his own party, both in the Centre and the states, is not that great. Announcements made on employment creation and doubling of farmer incomes are two immediate examples of unkept promises. The guarantees which came with the demonetisation of high value notes back in 2016 were never met either.

The pattern evident in Indian electoral politics in the last two decades has been that people reward those parties whose actions speak loudly, or are at least seen to be making an honest attempt to govern and effect change. The United Progressive Alliance returned to power for a second term on the back of a solid performance in the first. In the second term, its leaders forgot the fact that people still wanted the government to be on their side, and lost power.

The National Democratic Alliance made honest efforts with Swachh Bharat and Ujjwala that did make a difference to people’s lives. But in the current term, its leaders have started getting ideas about fiscal prudence.

We are an Independent country for the last 76 years but have not yet created a system by which the people can stand on their own two feet and contribute to society and the nation. We remain a country where the vast majority of people need governmental support to survive each day of their lives. We have still to bridge the yawning economic gap which is only widening year on year. Even the digital divide, which decides the future of a country, is not addressed with seriousness of intent. It is easy to draw the analogy of teaching one to catch the fish instead of giving one some; but it takes enormous amounts of imagination, planning and execution to walk that talk.

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