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  Opinion   Edit  20 Oct 2023  AA Edit | Freebies vs essentials row rages ahead of elections

AA Edit | Freebies vs essentials row rages ahead of elections

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Oct 20, 2023, 11:58 pm IST
Updated : Oct 20, 2023, 11:58 pm IST

Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan is literally on a freebie spree, offering liberal help to voters, especially women.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. (Image: Twitter)
 Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. (Image: Twitter)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last year launched a campaign against what he called the “revari culture”, i.e., political parties sweetening their election promises with too many freebies including cash, food grains, electricity, utensils, unemployment benefits, etc. They are running state governments into debt, undermining public sector power companies and leaving very little money with the states to address the real problems of the people. This leaves the youth with a nation of stunted growth, the PM pointed out while advising politicians to have the courage to tell the truth to the people.

A year later, and into the poll season, there are no takers for his advice even in his own party. BJP chief minister in Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan is literally on a freebie spree, offering liberal help to voters, especially women. The monthly financial aid to 1.32 crore women has been recently hiked to Rs 1,250 from Rs 1,000 with a promise of raising it to Rs 3,000 eventually. He is in competition with the Congress Party which has offered Rs 1,500 in one go. He has matched the Congress promise of LPG cylinders at Rs 500 each but yet to catch up with the Opposition party’s promise of 100 units of free electricity to every household. The ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi in Telangana with its six guarantees and the Congress with a matching portfolio are in a tight competition showering freebies on women and farmers. The BJP is yet to catch up with the Congress chief ministers in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

It is possible that the results in the Karnataka election where the Congress returned to power on the back of a series of promises which included free foodgrain, power and gas cylinders for families and free travel and monthly payouts for women blunted opposition to the freebie culture. The BJP had gone overboard playing the communal card in the southern state to retain power, but the people chose to elect those who, they believed, would bring some immediate succour to their lives.

Politicians in Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, had long realised that material stuff that instantly improved the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, especially women and children, are a key to opening the doors of Fort St George.

The Prime Minister has a point in that the governments must have the resources to address the future requirements of the nation instead of splurging on the immediate needs. However, the fact is that, 75 years into Independence, a good section of people in this country still look up to the government for their survival; and the politician cannot ask them to address issues of fiscal stability and mounting debts. 

Mobilising resources and prioritising their spending are the job of those who are engaged in statecraft. It would make little sense to follow up on a plan which will make India a $5 trillion economy but will leave a people who live on governmental dole. A better connect with the ground realities should help the politicians strike a balance between the immediate and essential needs and the demands of the future generations. Till then, the revari culture will prevail, whether one likes it or not. 

Tags: aa edit, chief minister shivraj singh chouhan, freebies