ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Aspects of ‘Freebies’

The attempts to disparate the state governments’ expenditure on subsidies by the votaries of the neo-liberal fiscal regime, do not stand the scrutiny of facts and reason. The use of terms like “freebies” and “revadi culture” is an assault by the state-capital nexus on the lives of millions of working people, by keeping them vulnerable in order to discipline them, as an integral part of the neo-liberal agenda.

The Supreme Court of India since January 2022 has been hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to act against poli­tical parties that promise distribution of free goods (“freebies”).1 When Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his public speeches said that the “revadi culture” is detrimental to the country’s development,2 the union government came out in support of the PIL in the court. Although the ECI in its submission to the court said that it has limited scope to interfere in the matter,3 on 4 October 2022, it ­issued a letter soliciting views of political parties on introducing a standardised proforma for disclosure of “fin­ancial implications of promises to be made in future election manifestos,” “ways of fin­ancing them within the available financial space” and “the effect thereof on the fiscal sustainability” for amending the Model Code of Conduct.

It is not clear what the ECI means by “available financial spaces” or “fiscal sus­t­ainability” and what it thinks the roots of the country’s problems in fact are. But it is ironical that in a country that has made a constitutional promise to secure justice, liberty, and equality to all citizens, a constitutional body, entrusted to conduct and regulate free and fair elections, is asking political parties to explain ways of financing the promises “within the available financial space.” This directly means conserving a status quo of the state’s financial status by restricting political parties, if elected to power, to think and explore ways to exp­and the available financial space. This is contrary to the constitutional principles and the philosophical values underlying it. It is more so when the Supreme Court, realising the complexity of this issue, quite late though, has observed,

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Updated On : 9th Jan, 2023
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