Populist Promises and Freebies Rule Elections to Indian Parliament

While market analysts express concern over the practise of Election doles in India and many Indians believe that the situation is worsening the democracy, the political parties in India are competing with each other to announce big ticket popular promises to voters if they are voted to power.

New Delhi (Sputnik): The head of the opposition Congress Party in India recently announced a mammoth income guarantee scheme as part of his election promise. Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised to give Rs 72,000 (Around $1000) per year to the country's poorest families if his party is voted to power. Freebies being an integral part of Indian elections, it hardly came as a surprise to political pundits.

Gandhi called the minimum income support scheme a "final assault on poverty". Similar promises were made by incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign in 2014. 

During his pre-election rally in 2014, Modi had said that every Indian would get Rs 15 Lakh (Around $20000) if his party BJP is voted to power by bringing the black money (unaccounted wealth) stashed in foreign banks and countries back to India. His party president Amit Shah in a televised interview later termed Modi's promise to just a 'Jumla' or a passing reference. The opposition Congress this time is going to voters claiming that its promise of a minimum guarantee of income is not like that of the incumbent BJP but is based on a realistic scheme called 'Nyaya' meaning justice in the Hindi language.

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However, market specialists say such promises could prove to be detrimental to the economy of a country like India which houses a population of about 1.25 Billion people. 

"Doling out freebies without proper planning would lead to cut in productive investment & rise in borrowing costs," says economist Radhika Pandey talking to news magazine The Print. 

Experts opine that parties must rather focus on reforms but sadly that is not happening in Indian politics. They suggest that the poor in India would prefer to earn a dignified living through work opportunities than live on these support plans. 

"Not income support but reforms that help poor enter the workforce will be a successful economic model," says Himanshu, an Associate professor of Economics with Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. 

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Investment specialists feel that such trends among political parties could influence the economy and the pace of reforms in the country. Emerging markets fund manager and founder of Mobius Capital Partners Joseph Bernhard Mark Mobius has already expressed his concerns publicly.

The Congress party had announced freebies in the form of farm loan waivers prior to state elections in December and interestingly it won three major states out of the five that went to elections together. The party won elections to the large states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh on the promise and it announced the same after taking over the office. The waiver came from the state exchequer and economists opine that this trend disturbs the economic plan and growth of the county.  

"The agenda of economic plan and growth gets disturbed as valuable taxpayers money is spent for fulfilling poll promises. No party in India is behind in this norm and everyone seems to be competing against each other in this," Dr. Dhana Sumod, a professor with Rajasthan University told Sputnik.

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The trend has come to a stage when Indians are publicly claiming that populism is the real winner in India in any election and it is an assured recipe for destruction of the Indian economy.

There are many who are now voicing their concerns in Social media and calling the announcement of freebies by political parties as nothing short of "soft corruption." There are some who say that it is all due to lack of vision in Indian politics.

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As per data released by the Election Commission of India last weekend, approximately Rs 540 crores ($77 million) have been seized by different Indian enforcement agencies in form of cash, liquor, drugs, narcotics, precious metals & freebies.

"Freebies, loan waivers and election promises by political parties and candidates is a compromise with the ability and accountability of elected guardians. Freebies is an obvious cause for India's unbounded poverty, illiteracy and unemployment," eminent social thinker K C Agrawal told Sputnik

Users are also complaining of Freebies on Facebook pages seeking votes.

What’s going on ⁦@ECISVEEP⁩???? Pro-Modi social media sites offer freebies for votes, raising questions of election code violation. You simply cannot endorse this out of control government to indulge in underhand tactics breaking #ElectionCode https://t.co/E2ZPYkGvqw

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Indian Elections in 2019 will decide members for the 17th Parliament which is elected for a period of five years. The elected members of the majority party elect the Prime Minister who heads the government. The elections this time is being held in seven phases with the first phase on April 11 and the counting of votes is scheduled for 23 May. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term as Prime Minister after being in power since 2014.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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