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Irresponsible Approach


A minister of the new Congress Government in Karnataka has admitted that ‘freebies are necessary to win elections’ even though they are difficult to implement. The manner in which the pre-election ‘guarantees’ given by the Congress have been tweaked in the delivery indicates the truth of this declaration. Considering the fact that the party has long been in power at various times in all parts of the country, it still seems to retain a sense of responsibility in its subconscious.

This is unlike the Aam Aadmi Party that has unscrupulously splurged on giveaways from the public exchequer just to win elections and, then, failed to deliver on long term development in Delhi. It is not the lack of powers that is reducing that state to a municipality; it is the lack of vision on the part of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. While the central government can pick up the slack in Delhi, such a policy is not possible in Punjab, a state quite sensitive in more ways than one.

It would be advisable, therefore, for political parties preparing for the ‘unity’ talks in Patna to consider not just the arithmetic of votes, but also the means of obtaining them. It should be noted that India is holding its own on many fronts, globally, primarily because of its better economic performance. So, any party or alliance hoping to form the government should not score an own goal by jeopardising this growth momentum. The cumulative expenditure on the giveaways that has been calculated after each victory is proving to be cripplingly substantial. When they talk of providing employment, it should be realised that it is only possible by providing a platform on which business and entrepreneurial activity can take place. This requires modern day infrastructure, connectivity of various kinds, systemic depth, IT and AI capabilities, human resource development, among others. Handing out doles gets nowhere near this objective.

Wanting such a responsible approach may, of course, be wishful thinking. This is because the greed for power is enormous. There is also a desperation among many that, should PM Modi get another term, they would find themselves behind bars – a fate they have escaped, thus far, only because of the snail-paced judicial process. It is more likely that the talks will be confined to negotiating caste, communal and regional fiefdoms for a ‘united’ and ‘secular’ front. India will have to progress ‘despite’ its government, as it did in earlier years.