Young India: India's National News Magazine


August 2022

Freebies Hurt You More in Long Run

  (L-R) Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi; Manish Sisodia, Home Minister, Delhi during free water to people

Politics of freebies to attract voters has been played by political parties in India for a long time. To start with it was started by offering liquor and food before voting day. Some changed it to distribution of cash . The Election Commission made it difficult by putting in place effective measures to check it and seized a lot of cash from political agents. Not to be deterred, political parties started distributing pressure cookers and other goodies including lap tops and mobile phones.

The Aam Aadmi Party took it a step further, as instead of distributing goodies before the polls it started promising favours to be given after elections. It included free power and water for small consumers, free bus travel for women and allowance for unemployed. Question that arises is how will it help. As the current financial position of States is far from healthy. Majority of them have huge deficit and are unable to pay for power supplied and consumed or water to Electricity boards and other undertakings providing services to them.

If States run deficits at some stage it will be passed on to Centre, If all act irresponsibly .and start running deficits and are unable to manage within the income generated, there will be no option to but to print more money which will lead to inflation and currency will come under pressure and start losing value in international markets.

This is not imagination but we have witnessed it in our neighbourhood in Sri Lanka. A stage will come where deficit between our exports and imports will become so large that we would have no foreign exchange to buy essential items like crude oil and medicines. Inflation will also make prices of essential items so high that forget the poor, even middle class will not be able to buy them. The prudent policy is that we should balance our income and expenditure and also our exports and imports.

  (L-R) Election Commission, India; Free electricity supply to Delhities; Free bus ride for all women in DTC Buses

This is essential for a healthy economy. Political parties need to observe restraint while making election promises. If they act irresponsibly they will have to pay a price in future as they will not be able to fulfil promises and voters will punish them when they go to them during next polls. Political promises have to be realistic and in the process politicians should not loose the plot.

Recently Aam Aadmi Party has taken the lead in making offers like free power, water and free travel for some. It plans to add benefits like unemployment allowance and good education without charging. It does not explain from where funds will come. It could be done to a some extent in Union Territory which is a surplus budget state. It does not explain how it will do it in Punjab where there is huge debt.

In addition it is spending huge sums on advertising not only in Delhi but also in States where it hopes to do well. Delhi advertising budget is more than budget of many large states. The best example was money spent on advertisement scheme to convert agriculture waste into manure . While farmers got few lakhs as subsidy for implementing it ,over hundred crores were spent on publicising it.

Delhi Government alone is not guilty of wasting funds on publicity and advertising but many states are advertising on electronic channels . What we need is schemes for unemployed in freebies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned against culture of freebies and there is urgent need to check the same. Any freebies may look attractive to start with but you pay for it when indirect taxes are levied to make up for deficit.. India needs productive schemes to make Indian economy strong and not freebies.

  (L-R) People struggling for food during economic crises in Sri Lanka; Arvind Kejriwal, CM, Delhi in Punjab

Bihar Developments Have Not
Dented Modi Prospects in 2024

  (L-R) Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, India; Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Bihar

Can developments in Bihar change what was considered to be a done deal in the poll for Lok Sabha in 2024 in which BJP was expected to win third term to rule India for another five years. Third term is never easy for any political party as incumbency sets in and many promises made to people remain unfulfilled. BJP was not suffering any setback on this count and was expected to do even better as compared to 2019.

Reasons were obvious, there was no alternative. Congress the main opposition party remained in disarray. BJP had scored another spectacular victory in U.P. The opposition alliance in power in Maharashtra had been replaced and BJP aided by Shiv Sena rebels had come to power. The opposition parties remained divided. Aam Admi Party has come to power in Punjab in place of Congress and continued to erode Congress base in states like Goa and Gujarat. Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee had her own ambitions and declared repeatedly that Congress was no more capable of giving a fight to BJP.

At this stage suddenly there was a change in Bihar where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to ditch his partner in power BJP and join hands with RJD to take oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for eighth time. The Bihari leadership also declared that all opposition parties, eight in number, have joined hands to support new Bihar Government. They also made no secret of the fact that before 2024 Nitish Kumar will be willing to challenge BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Prime Ministership as opposition candidate.

It was no secret that Mr Nitish Kumar had been working on changing sides for a long time as he felt that in the poll for State Assembly in 2020 BJP had cut down his numbers by encouraging Paswan to field candidates against him. This changed the situation as JDU instead of being a major player in Bihar coalition became a junior partner with BJP emerging as largest single party in Bihar Assembly. Mr Nitish Kumar marked his time and supported NDA candidate in Presidential poll and poll for Vice President.

In the meantime started parleys with RJD and Congress leaders. He joined Iftar party at the house of his arch rival Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav. He also met Mrs Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. But fear in his mind was that even if he changed sides and showed a majority the State Governor will call upon BJP in first instance to form Government being the largest party in the Assembly. This was changed when four members of Owaisi Muslim league merged with RJD making it the party with largest number of MLA’s in Bihar Assembly.

Now the question arises how far change in Bihar will influence outcome of poll for Lok Sabha in 2024. First despite calls for unity by Bihar leaders , the unity of opposition leaders remain a distant dream. Aam Admi Party leader, Nitish Kumar , Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and old player in wings Sharad Pawar all have there own dreams of leading fight against BJP as opposition candidate in 2024. None of them is willing to yield space for new candidate for top post. BJP may get fewer seats in 2024 from Bihar and Maharashtra but its ability to get majority is not in doubt because its hold on U.P remains intact which is to send 80 members to Lok Sabha. Second factor is that the popularity of Mr Narendra Modi is not only intact but has improved. There are concerns regarding economic slowdown, unemployment and inflation, but he is still considered as best man for the job of Prime Minister. The distance between him in popularity and acceptability for top job between him and opposition candidates like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee has grown At this time his acceptability is even more than the acceptability of BJP as a political Party. More so during last two polls we have noticed that poll for Lok Sabha instead of being a contest between political parties is becoming Presidential with more focus on candidates which is expected to favour Mr Modi. BJP gets more support in Lok Sabha as compared to poll for State assemblies.

In conclusion one can not help but accept that Bihar developments have captured headlines and given boost to opposition parties but in race for top job Mr Narendra Modi remains favourite and with no one close to him.

  (L-R) Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal; Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi; Sharad Pawar

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