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Who is practising shortcut politics?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again come out to criticize those who play the 'politics of shortcuts' by promises of freebies during elections. He accuses those who make freebie announcements to win votes of destroying the country's economy for their personal interests and portrays them as enemies of the tax payers who contribute their hard-earned money to the exchequer. He described this as the reflection of the degradation of Indian politics. The Prime Minister's comments came at a flag-off event for various development projects worth Rs 75,000 crore in Nagpur on Sunday. He warned against distortionist parties trying to usurp authority by grabbing power. Modi went on with his exhortation that all-round development should be the goal of political parties and if that happens, they will be able to come to power again and again.

Even five months ago, the Prime Minister had raised his voice against 'freebie culture'. Observers say that this is an oblique criticism of the Aam Aadmi Party in the context of the Gujarat and Himachal elections. However, if what the Prime Minister said is taken seriously, it should not only apply to AAP. which has caused sufficient headache for Modi and his party in Gujarat. But as a matter of fact, all those who seek a shortcut to electoral victory by giving freebies should come under this criticism. So who are the disruptive parties that the Prime Minister is pointing fingers at in the recent elections? Did the BJP, which ruled Gujarat for the last six times, put forward all-round development? The BJP manifesto was released after the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party floated promises of free electricity, education, healthcare, old-age pension, cylinder subsidy and farm loan waiver. If Modi's words had been put into practice, the six consecutive terms in power would have been enough for the BJP to campaign. However, the freebies promised by the BJP proved that the party, which entered the race by replacing the Chief Minister - who was heavily criticized by the Gujarat High Court for sitting idle during the Covid epidemic - did not have the courage to do so. And the BJP's promises included free education, health care, three free LPG cylinders for poor families, subsidized peanuts and cooking oil, free electric scooters for college students, marriage assistance of Rs 51,000 for girls and interest-free loans for women entrepreneurs. Making these promises again was necessitated by the party not having given anything despite being in government for six terms. When the very media who celebrate BJP carry figures to show that the shortage of specialist doctors in government hospitals is 99 percent, voters will not take any free treatment into serious consideration. BJP is able to lull into sleep not only the poor but also the middle class with its verbiage because it is in power at the Centre and the state. Therefore, other similar promises were also made such as making Gujarat a trillion dollar economy and bringing the 2036 Olympics to Ahmedabad.

What the BJP announced for Himachal Pradesh was Rs 2,250 crore worth of freebies. This included three gas cylinders for poor, bicycle for all school girls, Rs 2,500 per month for students who excel in plus two exams in schools, scooters for graduate students, GST tax waiver of 25 crores for apple packaging workers and so on. But while communal agendas such as uniform civil code and prohibition of religious conversions have helped him reap big gains in Gujarat, where caste politics is strong, in HP where there was less room for such propaganda, similar promises failed to pay off. And the prime minister's rhetoric happened at the face of such realities. Last October, when the Election Commission asked to include in the code of conduct the source of funds for keeping the promises, the BJP explained that theirs is not short-term freebies, but help for comprehensive development. About the freebies, party president J.P. Nadda said there is a difference between empowerment and distribution. They also say that free travel and electricity will strain the exchequer. Is the party throwing such barbs out of nervousness against the AAP because the latter had implemented them in Delhi? If so, is the BJP's reservation about their implementation rather than about offering them? Or else, what is the meaning of PM Modi pelting stones in such a way as to boomerang on BJP itself?

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TAGS:Prime Minister Modi short-cut politics freebies during campaigns BJP's offers during Gujarat elections freebies offered in Himachal Pradesh BJP's six terms in Gujarat 
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