While declaring that the offer of freebies by political parties in their poll manifestos is not corruption, the Supreme Court has advised the Election Commission to frame guidelines on freebies in consultation with all political parties. No major political party will ever come forward to support such a move. The offer of freebies is a simple, convenient and easy vote-catching device.
But social and cultural organisations, non-political parties and educational institutions can educate people on the evils of receiving freebies which drain the exchequer hampering overall development.
The conclusion in the editorial “Letting freebies be” (July 8) that the court may be right in expressing its disquiet over reckless populism, but the remedy for any fiscally irresponsible act can only lie with voters and not with judges rightly upholds the primacy of political parties in a democracy. Indian voters are mature enough to make judgments after evaluating the promises and past experience. Political parties should be pragmatic and ensure that the promises they make in their manifestos are not competitive populism but are well within the framework of fiscal prudence.
If cash and other inducements offered by individual candidates to get votes are corrupt practices, how can offers by political parties for the same purpose be any different? Do they not amount to a promise of spending public money for private gains without the sanction of the legislature? The court should have condemned such reckless populism.
The editorial is right in opposing any move to regulate the contents of political manifestos. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect the voting behaviour of people to drastically change any time soon. Manifestos are shaped by how voters react to promises. Freebies are offered precisely because a large number of voters are easily swayed by the offer of free goods and appliances. How many of us bother to read lengthy political documents? It will take a long-term voter education campaign to make people realise that only a party that has a concrete and actionable plan of action has the right to rule us.
No political party has been untouched by the freebie culture. If giving TVs, laptops, mixer-grinders, and free electricity is not corruption, what is it? There is a huge difference between providing freebies and enhancing one’s earning capacity. Let us urge all political parties not to make people lazier by providing freebies.
D. Radha Krishna,
The editorial rightly says that the remedy for a fiscally irresponsible act by a political party can lie only with voters, not judges. If the judiciary can set its own terrain in order instead of stepping into people’s jurisdiction, it would surely be doing a great service to the people.
C. V. Sukumaran,
That the remedy for any fiscal recklessness by a political party lies with people is partially true. Many are either ignorant or are don’t care for the fact that freebies drain the exchequer. They queue up to get the freebies without comprehending how they can change their lives for the better. How will an electric fan help the poor if they cannot pay the electricity bills or, even worse, there is an acute power shortage?
No doubt, a promise per se costs nothing. But smaller parties stand handicapped in any competitive offering of freebies. Voters are not gullible enough to be carried away by the largesse of promises, if the same are made by a smaller party as they know they can never be translated into action.
Seshagiri Row Karry,
The Supreme Court’s directive to the Election Commission to frame guidelines has become necessary in the light of unseemly competition in offering freebies which are neither need-based nor empower the needy in real time. TV sets, mixer-grinders, etc., are only vote-catching inducements at the cost of taxpayers’ money. They are certainly not a substitute for sound economic policies.