New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s (SJM) National Co-Convenor, Ashwani Mahajan, has termed freebies offered by political parties a “form of bribery” and said there is a need to put an end to the practice by introducing a law for it.
Speaking to ThePrint on a host of issues, Mahajan, said “freebies are actually a kind of bribery to the voters, and this bribery has to be stopped. Whether it is this party or the other party, this has to be stopped by law”.
He further said that SJM has maintained for a long time that freebies are not good for the development of the country and highlighted the need to distinguish between freebies and welfare goods.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought a response from all recognised political parties on a proposal requiring them to furnish details of the “financial implications” of promises made in election manifestos and “ways and means” to finance them.
This move comes close on the heels of a raging debate over “freebies” triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “revdi culture” (freebie culture) remark earlier this year and a petition before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court challenging promises of “irrational freebies” by political parties.
“Freebies are actually those goods, which can be priced and which should not be provided by the government. In economics, we always say resources are limited, public revenue is limited. We have limited resources, so, these resources could either be used for development of the state or could be used for giving freebies. Which one would be preferred?” he argued.
Mahajan also cited the example of former Chief Minister of Delhi and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit pointing out that during her tenure, the rate of growth of development expenditure was around 20 per cent annually for 15 years, which has come down to 9 per cent in the first five years of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government.
“This is on a nominal basis. On a real basis it is much less than that. Therefore, this is getting reflected in the development, or the lack of development efforts in Delhi — there are no new schools, no new colleges, no new hospitals, no new flyovers, nothing has moved in Delhi. Therefore, if somebody says that I’m providing these freebies for the poorer section of the society, then he is not speaking the truth, because the poorer section of the society requires good transport, good roads, good facilities, so that they can lead a better life,” said Mahajan.
“If we are providing free electricity to one and all, that means those who could have paid for it are actually not paying for it. Therefore, those resources would not be provided for the development of the city, of the state. And this is a kind of contagious disease, this disease spreads to other states also,” he added.
Mahajan said political parties are also engaging in this race as “ruling is more important than development. Which means political aspirations would overrule the development of the welfare of the people at large.”
‘Become job creators, not seekers’
Reacting to the RSS’ general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale’s comments highlighting India’s poverty, unemployment and inequality at an SJM event Sunday, which created a political stir, Mahajan said this was admitted by former PM Manmohan Singh, too.
“The problem of unemployment has been there for many decades. And especially after the adoption of the New Economic Policy in 1991, this problem has increased enormously, and that was admitted even by our previous Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, when he said that this GDP growth is actually a jobless growth right. So, he had been saying it time and again and therefore, saying that this is an admission of the existence of unemployment is actually not correct,” said Mahajan.
He also stressed on the fact that rather than job-seekers there is a need to become job-creators.
Speaking of the global turmoil and its impact on the Indian economy, Mahajan said India has always found opportunities in crises and cited the example of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Now, when the Ukraine war is going on, we find many countries are facing food scarcity. They thought they would be able to finish Russia through American and European sanctions, but actually these sanctions are biting these western countries themselves, which are now facing huge problems in terms of availability of gas and oil, among other things. Except us,” he said. “Our currency and other currencies are all depreciating, but our currency’s performance is still better than all other currencies.”
This, he said, could be taken as an opportunity by the country to move towards self-reliance and get on the Atmanirbhar path.
“According to the news coming in from Western countries, they are facing a recession. The US, too, is facing recession, and India has got the possibility to increase its production. If we see in the last few quarters, our GDP has been growing at a much faster rate. We have become the fastest-growing economy of the world,” he claimed.
“Whereas, the developed countries are facing recession. Their GDP is contracting, as we see the US GDP has been contracting for the past two-three quarters consecutively. So, this is an opportunity for us. We are not facing any problem because of the Ukraine war — not of food, not of gas and oil. Rather, we are getting cheaper oil and gas from Russia. So, I think our geopolitical efforts are moving in the right direction,” he added.
Mahajan said a comparison between the depreciation of Indian currency and the rest, including the Pound, Euro or Yen, shows that they have depreciated nearly twice or thrice that of Indian currency.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)