Ground Report | New Delhi: Freebie in elections; The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday issued a notice to the Union of India and the Electoral Commission of India in a plea filed seeking instructions to the ECI not to allow political parties to promise or distribute unreasonable gifts from the public fund before the elections and remove the political register.
A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli were hearing public interest litigation filed by Bhartiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay.
The petitioner has sought a complete ban on populist measures used to curry favour with voters. The bank said on Tuesday that the request had raised serious problems, according to Bar and Bench. “It’s a serious problem and [the] gift budget goes beyond the regular budget,” Ramana said. “Although it is not a corrupt practice, it does create an uneven playing field.”
The politics of Freebie issues have become a crucial part of electoral battles and the situation is much the same in the upcoming legislative elections in five states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.
Freebie in elections
Political parties promise to offer free water and electricity supply, monthly subsidy to the unemployed, day labourers and women, as well as devices such as laptops, smartphones, etc. to secure the vote of the people. There are arguments both for and against this practice
Supporters of such giveaways argue that post promises are essential so that voters know what the party would do if it comes to power and have a chance to weigh these options. Those who are against the gifts point out that this places a huge economic burden on the coffers of the state and the centre (if the elections are held for the Lok Sabha).
Why Freebie is a problem
Over the last few decades, free politics has had huge designated electoral benefits and the good government took a beating. The continuity of the gifts is a more significant impediment since the parties continue to think of lucrative proposals to obtain a greater number of votes and in this way limit the danger of losing in the contests. This influences some young citizens, as they are stunned by such offers and cannot pass judgment on the impending pathfinder.
Manisha Priyam, an associate professor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), said governments should focus on long-term projects. “This [the incentives before the elections] is not a good practice. Governments must focus on long-term policy formulation. And doing these short-term measures shows that you don’t have a vision of how you want to change things,” she said.
The gifts, according to Professor Sanjay Kumar, director of the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), were not a recent or special phenomenon in India and were a regular offer by political parties in the run-up to elections.
“But all the parties, whether it’s the Congress or the BJP, have resorted to this. The failure of parties and governments to bring development to ordinary people has led to the rise of the “gifts” phenomenon and parties have to resort to them to win over voters,” said Kumar adding that to a large extent, the announcement of such schemes close to the election was not well thought out, The Hindu reported.
“Offering free rides is a clear giveaway. That is looking at women as a vote bank. Certainly, not all women need free rides,” he added. Kumar said that while social assistance schemes in the form of exemptions from energy and water bills could be justified when viewed from the perspective of promoting the efficient use of scarce public resources, free travel on public transport they were a completely different ball game.
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