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Toxic Promises


Normally, people would like that political parties follow through on their promises after the elections. However, in the present over-the-top scenario, there is competition to come up with freebies at the cost of the public exchequer, the condition being that the party be allowed access to this treasure trove. Earlier, votes were bought with pre-election day handouts of quarter-bottles of liquor for men and sarees for women, maybe also small amounts of money. However, the new generation of unscrupulous politicians now does not even spend from its pocket – it is just IOUs drawn on future control of public finances. A party like AAP has mastered this technique and other parties are making better offers to keep up. Nobody has confidence in the voter’s integrity enough to resist using this lure. Some may seek to counter this tactic by exploiting caste and community divides, which is not a good thing either.

In the process, promises are being made that go against the larger interests of the people, the states and the nation. Free electricity to farmers, for instance, will only exacerbate their woes, as they continue to grow ‘easy’ crops like rice and sugarcane in water deficient areas because they can flog their tubewells without worrying about the bill. This lowers the water table, making it unavailable for smaller farmers. They have to spend on deeper tubewells or lose their livelihood. In the process, reforms aimed at introducing alternative practices and crops die untimely deaths. In the meanwhile, payments to power generating companies are delayed for months and years by governments. This brings the entire power industry under stress – there is little incentive to increase generation capacity or modernise. This cascading effect continues down the line and into other sectors, pushing states into bankruptcy. By then, however, the politicians have enjoyed their stint in power, made personal fortunes and discovered new ways to con the voter.

So, perhaps, it would be better if the election related promises are forgotten by the parties. The voters, too, should forgive this lapse and look at the more sensible programmes. The previous record of each party should also be considered on the basis of actual parameters of improved conditions, rather than pie-in-the-sky aspirations. Young people, in particular, should not barter away their future for ‘government jobs’ that will only meet the needs of just one percent among them. It is better to act smart now than repent later.