Will poll freebies be a thing of the past? Let’s hope so as the SC takes note of it

Political parties promising freebies is a serious issue, notes the Supreme Court as it issues notice to Centre, poll panel

Come election season, and political parties vie with each other to dole out freebies in a bid to lure the voters. While some of the freebies are blatantly announced, some others are gift wrapped in the guise of development programmes that are promised as a thanksgiving to voters if they elect the respective parties to power.

Any free offer that are promised and distributed during the pol season is an illegal method of attracting votes that would take parties to power. The practice has been rampant across India for decades together. There have been initiatives that were supposed to put a curb on such illegal practices, no effort on this front has succeeded so far. South or North, East or West, political parties race against time to make sure that freebies are announced ahead of each election.

With the Supreme Court having taken note of this practice, hopes of a halt in such an illegal and irritating manner in which political outfits behave, have suddenly come up. The apex court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Union government on the issue, in view of the freebies announced by political parties who are fighting the Assembly polls in five states at the moment.

Promise of freebies a serious issue, feels SC

Terming the promise of freebies as a ‘serious issue’, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has opined that he would want to look how the practice can be controlled legally. Stating that the freebies budget goes beyond the regular budget, the CJI said that this is indeed a serious issue.

It needs to be recalled here that the Supreme Court had earlier directed the poll panel to formulate norms that would bring a check on the issue of freebies. However, the Election Commission of India called just one meeting with political parties seeking their views on the issue and then left it at that.

A petition has been filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in the apex court calling upon the court to direct the poll panel to seize the election symbol or de-register parties that line up freebies using public funds when elections near. The petitioner has also called for a total ban on the freebie culture which political outfits resort to in their bid to ensure votes. Such measures actually violate the Constitution, he noted.

When will the political parties learn?

Posting the matter for hearing again after four weeks, the Supreme Court of India said that such an unethical practice is akin to offering bribes to the electorate at the cost of the exchequer.

Now that the Supreme Court has intervened and opined that the freebie culture is a serious issue, it ushers in a sense of gratefulness among the common man who votes for good governance. Using public money to distribute free goods and services in a bid garner the maximum number of votes is indeed illegal, to say the least. The fact that political parties have been practicing this for quite a long time needs to be seen a stain on the democratic process where the common man has as his right to a free and fair poll process.

Let’s hope the political outfits would realise the folly they have been practicing for long and sail away from such illegal activity. The common man on the street, who would want to have a government that provides good governance, would certainly look forward to a decision that curbs freebie culture.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]
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