Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lok Satta faults parties for opposing restrictions on offer of freebies

The Lok Satta Party described the opposition of almost all national and regional recognized political parties to imposition of restrictions on offer of freebies in election manifestos as not only improper but also undemocratic.

Apparently, the traditional parties, which have turned people into voting machines by implementing populist schemes in the name of welfare, are keen on persisting with their vote bank politics, said Lok Satta Party State Vice President D. V. V. S. Varma in a media statement.

At a meeting convened by the Election Commission of India in New Delhi on Monday, the parties contended that restrictions on offer of freebies will amount to an abridgement of their rights. The Election Commission convened the meeting in the wake of the Supreme Court directive that it initiate steps to restrict offer of freebies since the present Representation of People’s Act did not provide for it.

Mr. Varma pointed out that political parties in the past lured voters by distributing money and liquor. In the recent past, they are trying to garner votes by also promising individual benefits, No one need take exception to parties promising free education, health care and skill enhancement and free food and shelter to people like the aged and the physically challenged. But what is the point in offering free TVs, mixies, cell phones and thalis in election manifestos? The Government cannot abuse the exchequer to further its vote bank politics, said Mr. Varma.

Mr. Varma demanded that a law be enacted on the lines of the fiscal responsibility management Act to limit the money spent on welfare schemes to 15 percent of the budget. In the absence of any such limit, Governments are opting for populist schemes like food security and extending them to even the ineligible. The Union Government can offer additional incentives to States which adhere to the 15 percent budgetary ceiling on welfare schemes.

Mr. Varma also underlined the need to replace the present first-past-the-post electoral system by proportional representation. Under the present system, political parties spend crores of rupees on election campaigns and try to lure voters additionally by offering freebies at the cost of the public exchequer. People too should demand that the Government create opportunities for growth to all instead of offering freebies, he added.

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