- Earlier the freebie politics was limited to rural areas of the country, given rampant poverty and low productivity in those areas.
- But Kejriwal’s sole focus is on the distribution of freebies, no infrastructure, no economic growth, no jobs – only freebies.
- The Kejriwal government brought the freebie culture of socialist politicians like Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The people of the city are now witnessing its damage.
Almost a decade ago, the entry of Arvind Kejriwal in Indian politics took freebie promise to an altogether different level. Although Indian politics has always been populist like any other poor country and the Congress party has won the election on the promise of freebies, not jobs, the entry of Kejriwal brought this kind of politics in urban areas.
Earlier the freebie politics was limited to rural areas of the country, given rampant poverty and low productivity in those areas. However, Kejriwal promised free electricity, free water, free ration, free metro travel, free bus ride, free education, and free healthcare to the people of Delhi. Healthcare and education are considered public goods and every party promises to deliver them, but along with that, the governments in developing countries/states/municipalities promise better infrastructure to create jobs and spur economic growth.
But Kejriwal’s sole focus is on the distribution of freebies, no infrastructure, no economic growth, no jobs – only freebies. And in many urban areas, the politics of Kejriwal is working. With success in Delhi, he has very consciously focused on urban areas in the last few years – be Goa, Surat, or Punjab.
However, the Courts have started taking cognizance of the freebie politics and asked the Election Commission of India as well as the Union government to take action against this. The apex court was hearing a petition filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, represented by senior advocate Vikas Singh. The petition said, “The ‘tamasha’ has been going on for decades. Promises always remain as promises. Most of them, except freebies, are not implemented.”
Hearing the petition, A bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice Hima Kohli said, “This is no doubt a serious issue. The budget for freebies seems to go beyond the regular budget… sometimes it is not a level playing field for some parties… How can we manage or control this?”
“Within the limited scope, we had directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines. But subsequently, they conducted only one meeting after our directions. They sought views from political parties and thereafter I do not know what happened,” CJI Ramana added.
Since the Kejriwal government came to power, the capital expenditure (spending on new projects) is going down while the revenue expenditure (spending on employee salary or welfare) is consistently going up. To provide freebies, the Kejriwal government is compromising on the urban infrastructure, the result of which is visible in waterlogging and flooded streets in Delhi.
Till Sheila Dixit was in power, the single-minded focus of the Delhi government was infrastructure, and given the fact, urban infrastructure is most crucial to any city – it resulted in the exponential growth of the National Capital Region.
The Kejriwal government brought the freebie culture of socialist politicians like Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The people of the city are now witnessing its damage. The socialists appreciate Lalu Yadav for not increasing the passenger fare in railways but, the damage that was done to the railway infrastructure with unhygienic stations, unavailability of tickets, extreme rush due to unavailability of trains, delays due to single line infrastructure is often ignored.
Similarly, the Kejriwal government is providing better education and healthcare at public schools and public hospitals respectively; the cost of electricity and water is also low – but because the taxpayer’s money is being spent on these items, very little is left to built roads, bridges, sanitation, and other infrastructure projects that would ensure the growth of the city and make it sustainable.
Moreover, the freebie politics still works better for Delhi because it does not have full statehood and many big-ticket expenditures like policing are borne by the Union government. However, the freebie politics will turn the states like Punjab – whose debt to GDP ratio is highest at 50% – bankrupt. If Kejriwal comes to power in any other urbanized state like Punjab or Goa, it would do massive damage to the political economy of the country.