13 Aug 2022  |   07:28am IST

Who will stem the freebies culture during polls?

As political parties for the sake of votes dole out gifts and freebies during the polls the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Thursday acknowledged that the impact of freebies promised by political parties on the country’s fiscal health was “a serious issue” but said he was not in favour of derecognising any party over it because that would be “anti-democratic”.

This is a clear indication that as of now it is a win-win situation both for the voters and all the politicians, cutting across party lines, at the time of polls. However, the benefits are more for the voters as they bag all these freebies from whichever political parties that are willing to offer. 

The Supreme Court in its observation on Thursday also agreed that “Nobody is saying this is not an issue. This is a serious issue. People who are getting benefits may say this is a welfare state, and we are entitled to this. People who are opposed may say we are paying tax and it has to be spent on developmental activities, and not for distributing it in whatever way parties want.” 

As controversy erupted over freebie politics, experts and parliamentarians say that it is absurd to make fun of welfare measures that are part and parcel of policies in all welfare states. Also, at the same breath the Supreme Court criticised political parties for handing out freebies ahead of elections. The court said that there is a clear distinction between welfare measures and freebies.

Earlier, Prime Minister Modi had mentioned that election freebies add to taxpayers’ burden and prevent the country from becoming self-reliant. Many opposition-ruled States say that providing subsidies for ration or power to the poor should not be called as freebies. Giving poor people their sustenance is not a freebie, some political leaders believe, which includes leaders from the ruling party. 

The tussle between Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on this very issue of freebies has become murkier after the latter accuses AAP of giving away freebies to everyone for political gains. With Gujarat State elections not too far, a BJP leader and party spokesperson said that some parties are engaging in “revdi (sweet) culture” by misusing taxpayer's money. 

Replying to the accusation of promoting freebies for political gains, AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been piling on taxes on the masses but waving it off for the rich. 

The mud-slinging match and the war of words between the two parties erupted after Prime Minister Modi's comments on July 16 when he cautioned people against what he called a “revdi culture” under which votes were sought by promising freebies, that this could be “very dangerous” for development of the country. The AAP, meanwhile, has claimed that his “free” government's programmes helped people come out of poverty and ensured quality services like health and education reached the poorest of the poor. 

The freebies during polls, is not new. In several States in the country, regional and even national political parties are known for offering doles which range from liquor bottles, cash, bicycles, radios to colour TV sets. It has almost become a norm that voters wait eagerly for the election time and “expect” political parties to offer them gifts in return of their “precious” votes.

It is clear that some political parties who are not in power and have deep pockets can afford to offer freebies on their own but many political parties who are in power tend to use the taxpayers’ money to offer freebies. Experts see that the use of taxpayers’ money to offer freebies is a dangerous trend as it is not productive to the cause of development. 


Idhar Udhar