The BJP is being harsh criticising the delay in the Congress high command announcing the name of the Karnataka CM. It is good if they take their time, resolve differences, address grievances and ambitions of various claimants for the top job and then name someone who can provide good governance. No point rushing into a decision under pressure of time and regretting later that the candidate chosen was less than suitable. With a comfortable majority the new government will not have to worry about pressure from various small factions within its own ranks.
Whether it is Siddaramaiah, which seems more likely, or D K Shivakumar, the government is guaranteed stability of tenure. With the BJP a poor second, and the JD(S) reduced to a rump, the Congress is assured of a full five-year term.
The point is the new government should apply itself from the first day to the task of addressing the grievances of the lay people. To begin with, at its first cabinet meeting it can decide to implement the five promises Rahul Gandhi had made to the voters. The five are: 200 units of free electricity to every household; grant of Rs 2,000 to every woman head of a family; ten kilograms of free rice to below poverty line families; Rs.3,000 cash dole to every unemployed degree holder and Rs. 1,500 to every diploma- holder. Besides, there is the promise of free travel on State roadways buses for women. Clearly, these promises played a significant part in persuading a large section of the voters, especially women, to vote for the Congress. These voters expect these to be honoured. A rough estimate of the annual cost in implementing these promises will not be less than Rs 50,000 crore. Even considering that Karnataka is a relatively prosperous state enjoying a higher per capita income, diverting a sum of Rs 50,000 crore on freebies, or revadis, or whatever you may choose to call them, is certain to cause diversion of funds better deployed for improving, say, healthcare and educational facilities.
It is argued that these are not freebies, nor doles, but tools of empowerment for the recipients. We have not known of any such freebies once provided being withdrawn on the ground that the beneficiaries have become self-sustainable and do not need the support of the State. The biggest example of course is the promise of the SC/ST reservations made by the Founding Fathers for ten years in the hope that in that period the traditionally disadvantaged and discriminated groups would have become empowered enough not to require the artificial crutches of reservations. We all know that those reservations are now more or less permanent, with more sections and groups vastly increasing the reservation net to more than half of the jobs and educational seats in government-funded institutions. However, we wish the new ruling party in Karnataka good luck. May it succeed in honouring the promises in its manifesto regarding the above-mentioned sops to the voters.
Meanwhile, it is worth recalling that the AAP in Punjab had promised a monthly cash dole of Rs 1,000 to all women aged 18 or above, from the first month upon its coming to power. Nearly a year and a half later, the Bhagwant Mann government is yet to keep its word. And the estimated annual expenditure is said to be about Rs 4,500 crore. Other freebies such as free water and electricity too await full implementation. It is not our case that only the Congress Party or the AAP are guilty of recklessly promising revadis to voters. Every party does it in lesser or greater measure. Before the pernicious electoral practice spreads any further, isn’t it time for the Election Commission, or, for that matter, even an otherwise hyper-active Supreme Court, to step in and devise some guardrails before our power-hungry politicians squander a good part of the development budgets on wasteful freebies which largely germinate a culture of dependency among the recipients?
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