JAIPUR: It’s raining sops and promises in Rajasthan ahead of the winter polls. Both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress are trying to outdo each other in showering gifts on and selling dreams to the voters, with politicians — including many who were to be seen nowhere in the past five years — campaigning with full gusto.
In a bid to counter the Opposition’s charge that no worthwhile work has been done in the past five years, the Vasundhara Raje government is marketing its ‘achievements’ by calling the beneficiaries of various welfare schemes at rallies to publicise how these measures have changed their lives.
The Congress, on the other hand, has dangled the promise of jobs — an area in which the BJP governments, both at the Centre and in the state, appear to have faltered.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced free distribution of smartphones with internet connectivity to 1 crore-plus beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act under the Bhamashah scheme.
The list of freebies showered on the voters is long —distribution of tricycles to differently-abled people; Rs 2 lakh interest free loans for barbers, carpenters, cobblers and plumbers etc; waiver of loan up to Rs 2 lakh for people who had taken loans from the SC/ST Finance Corporation and were unable to repay; loan waiver up to Rs 50,000 for 30 lakh farmers (which cost Rs 8,000 crore to the state); free medical treatment costing between Rs 30,000 and Rs 3,000,00 for BPL card holders in private and government hospitals under Bhamashah policy.
Raje also claims that her government has generated employment for 16 lakh people and has promised that 1.35 lakh people will soon get employed.
The Opposition Congress has predictably lashed out at what it called “collective bribery” of the voters. However, the party itself has also been guilty of splurging on benefits and freebies just ahead of elections during the tenure of former chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
Congress state president Sachin Pilot has played the employment card. He promised to give a monthly allowance of Rs 3,500 to unemployed youths even as he launched an employment form under the Yuva Shakti programme. It is seen as a big gamble to cash in on the resentment against the BJP government over the issue of unemployment.
As parties scramble to announce sops, it’s the common man who’s the loser, claims political analyst Rajiv Gupta. “Nothing comes for free and somebody has to pay for it. It’s not a good practice and the taxpayer ultimately pays for such freebies. If the government works for five years, these free sops will not be required at all.”