The Gov­ern­ment’s plan to dole out free cell phones is the lat­est episode in the sop opera. It fo­cusses on short-term gains at the cost of the coun­try’s fu­ture

Tehelka - - PROS&CONS -

HE UPA gov­ern­ment’s re­ported move to give free mo­bile phones to 60 lakh house­holds is yet an­other telling in­stance of the free­bies cul­ture that has en­veloped our pol­i­tics. In Ut­tar Pradesh, po­lit­i­cal par­ties vied with each other to of­fer all kinds of short-term sops to vot­ers. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK and AIADMK in­dulged in breath­tak­ing com­pet­i­tive pop­ulism. Blender, ceil­ing fan, wash­ing ma­chine, gas stove, colour TV, lap­top, food­grain and gold — all were on of­fer. In Andhra Pradesh, YS Ra­jasekhara Reddy came to power by of­fer­ing 2/ kg rice to more than 2 crore fam­i­lies in the state.

Reck­less pop­ulism has taken hold of po­lit­i­cal par­ties at both the state and na­tional level. It is time we ex­am­ined this phe­nom­e­non closely and took cor­rec­tive steps be­fore all gov­er­nance is re­duced to a com­bi­na­tion of plun­der and pop­ulism.

As peo­ple were in­creas­ingly dis­en­chanted with gov­ern­ments, par­ties started woo­ing vot­ers with money and liquor. As all tra­di­tional par­ties bought votes, large ex­pen­di­ture in elec­tions be­came an en­try fee to be able to se­ri­ously com­pete. It pre­cluded the en­try of com­pe­tent and hon­est cit­i­zens into pol­i­tics, and helped only those who could spend vast sums ( 5-10 crore per Assem­bly seat in states such as AP, Kar­nataka and Tamil Nadu). Large ex­pen­di­ture does not guar­an­tee vic­tory, but non-ex­pen­di­ture means cer­tain de­feat.

In ad­di­tion, po­lit­i­cal par­ties have cyn­i­cally started us­ing pub­lic money to of­fer sops to poor vot­ers. What started with Indira Gandhi spread to MGR, NTR and other pop­ulist lead­ers, and YSR reached the pin­na­cle of pop­ulism.


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