Be careful in closing free ravis | FindallUpdates


Anil Sinha
The Supreme Court has decided to constitute an expert committee on the question of promises of free gifts to voters during elections. For the constitution of the committee, it has sought suggestions from all the parties concerned – including political parties, NITI Aayog, Finance Commission, Reserve Bank. The issues raised during the Supreme Court’s hearing on a petition seeking criminalization of the promise of free gifts are of great importance to Indian democracy. Before proceeding further, it would be useful to take a look at the changes in the challenges of democracy over time.

  • In the early years of elections in India, the biggest concern was how to bring the weaker sections of the society to the polling booth and make their right to vote without fear into reality.
  • Till the coming of TN Seshan to the post of Chief Election Commissioner, it was only a dream in the Hindi heartland that the poor and socially weaker sections of the people could vote as per their wish.
  • This situation changed in later years, but the influence of money and muscle power in elections has increased rather than diminished.
  • The chances of winning the election of those with criminal background and spewing money like water have become more than ever before.

who will argue
In such a situation, it is important to raise the issue of populist promises and announcements of freebies during elections. During the hearing, Chief Justice of Supreme Court Justice NV Raman made a serious comment on the current state of democracy. He asked advocate Kapil Sibal which political party would be there to debate it in Parliament. Chief Justice Raman said that no political party will oppose free gifts.

On the surface it seems to be a simple comment. But in fact the Chief Justice has expressed the dismay that stems from the current state of debate in Parliament. For the last several years, no such debate is remembered in the Parliament which has made a special impact on the condition of the country. There is hardly any hope of debate on the broader issues of democracy going outside the purview of the parties. It is, therefore, a pertinent question whether the parties would like to debate the question of freebies, which the PIL’s lawyer has termed as bribe to voters and against fair elections?

An important aspect of this debate is the financial side of free gifts. The lawyer standing in favor of the PIL said that this has a very bad effect on the economy. Public debt increases and the deficit of the public exchequer also increases. The Solicitor General, who favored the Central Government, even said that if the populist promises are not controlled, it will lead the country to economic ruin. But talking about the other side of the coin, some important questions come to the fore:

  • Can schemes like mid-day meal, pregnant women and old age pension, cycles to girls and ration to the poor be included in the category of free gifts? For some time now, welfare schemes have been under attack as a burden on the economy. The fact is that the actual expenditure on these schemes has been reduced.
  • There are also worrying news about the condition of these schemes. But these are not being debated. The remarks made by Prime Minister Modi on political parties for distributing free ravadis and the opinion of the Solicitor General in the court also raises the apprehension that the government wants to reduce expenditure on welfare schemes. Will this step not increase the hardships of the people in this very difficult period of inflation and unemployment?
  • A question is also being raised whether a political question should be resolved through a committee consisting of non-political financial institutions like Reserve Bank and NITI Aayog? Obviously, fiscal deficit and public debt are important for these institutions.
  • Then the big question affecting the nature of our democracy is that if not on the basis of development or public welfare promises, then in what name should political parties seek votes? Should he focus his election campaign on emotional issues? Should they seek votes on the basis of religion, caste, language and regional identity which divides the country and society?

role of election commission
The court’s comments on the model code of conduct and role of the Election Commission, etc., did not go unnoticed by the media as the media kept its eye on the issue of freebies. The Election Commission at first refused to intervene on the issue, but at the behest of the Supreme Court, it was of the opinion that it should be included in the model code of conduct. The court remarked, “These are hollow formalities. When will these come into force? just before the election. Do something for the whole four years and put a model code of conduct at the end.

The position of the commission is gauged from the fact that it has not been able to stop the use of money power or language that incites sentiments in elections. Keep in mind, whatever changes may happen in this matter, the responsibility of implementation will ultimately fall on the commission itself.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.


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