Election Time And The Freebie Frenzy

Posted on May 24, 2011 in Politics at Play

By Pavithra S:

The recent state level elections have witnessed few spectacular developments. While the states of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu saw a landslide victory of the opposition party, Bihar saw the unexpected outnumbering of women voters to support the ruling government. The appointment of new Election Commission also marked a success step as this speaks of the need for transparent elections. Though such events have proved the increased awareness of Indian citizens, the opposition party’s accede to the freebie frenzy has set up a new trend of luring voters that comes with a concealed package of negative effects.

This was very apparent in Tamil Nadu. The ruling and the opposition parties took to the streets calling out their freebie list. The opposition party, which has never been a part of this lure-strategy during its tenure felt the need to tread the path laid out by the ruling party in order to gain the people’s attention. The election campaign in TN saw the two major parties contest each other with their list of freebies. While the ruling party promised the continuation of the existing free-schemes, the other party hiked the number of free distributions and also adding a surplus quantity to the existing ones.

If the DMK promised free laptops to all college going students, AIADMK announced the same for class 10th and 12th students. While the DMK bid for 35 kg free rice to all families in the Below Poverty Line category, AIADMK matched the steps by bidding for free 20 kg rice to all ration card holders. What started off with free color TV distribution during the DMK’s tenure has now forced the AIADMK to promise free mixer grinders, laptops, 4gm gold for ‘thali’ (mangalsootra) for women who have completed diploma education, increase in marriage assistance to Rs 50000, pregnancy allowance of Rs 12000, 60000 milch cows for free in 6000 villages, 4 free goats for each BPL family, 4 sets of uniform and footwear for school students. Just imagine how much this would cost the government in its 5year reign.

Providing subsidies for the poor and under privileged is necessary and that is what the people expect from the leaders, an aid for their survival. But these free schemes not only undermine the workability of the people, they implant corruption in their minds. Every time election comes up, people will look forward to the list of freebies. Rather than judging a party or its representative by their deeds, people start ranking them according to this list. The one with more number of subsidies gets the throne of honor. Though the basis of judgment may seem simple it proves disastrous when the expectations for true governance are at stake.

A major part the people tend to forget is that these freebies are at the cost of our tax money. It is not as free as they suppose it to be. It is a known fact that the DMK’s subsidy-supply landed up the government with Rs 1 lakh crore debt. The outcome would only be a price hike of basic commodities, increase in tax levy and a continuous reduction in the government money. It also creates a wide gap in the economic standing of the society, pushing the backward communities further back.

A few years back the parties did their best to gain votes by luring individual castes and communities in the society. This proved quite profitable for political parties but created wide disparities in the society. While one can breathe a sigh of relief at the absence of this trend in the recent polling, the new trend poses as much danger as its predecessor.

The strategies of political parties change so fast that we hardly notice it and fall a prey to it. Awareness during the campaign is of no use as people always get attracted to campaign-promises and the space for thinking will be less. The only fruitful solution will be general awareness of all classes of people and a basic understanding of the day-to-day happenings, at least of their locality. The power of people lies in their thinking and analyzing ability. If this is utilized properly, good governance and profitable solutions are a sure gift.

Img: http://www.heyoya.com/politics/tamil-nadu-elections-dmk-aiadmk-promise-freebies/

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