NEW DELHI: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday demanded that a referendum be held on whether the taxpayers' money be spent on providing good education, healthcare service and other facilities to people or on one's family and friends.
Demand from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Panipat that "freebies" impede India's effort to become self-reliant and also burden taxpayers.
"I demand that there should be a referendum in this country on whether the public money should be spent on one's family or one's friends, or it should be spent on providing facilities to common people like building good schools, good hospitals and roads," he said in a video message without taking any names.
In a veiled attack at the BJP leadership, Kejriwal alleged that an atmosphere is being created in the country to create a perception among people that the country will suffer losses if the governments provide free facilities to masses.
"What is the job of the governments then?" he asked, saying it will be cheating with the people if they are not given facilities commensurate with the amount of tax they pay.
The taxpayers aren't cheated when their children get good education and healthcare services, he contended.
"They are, indeed, cheated when politicians use their money to settle loans for their friends," he added.
Kejriwal claimed that taxpayers are "feeling cheated" today as they can see their money being spent on "a few friends of powerful people".
The country would not have been facing an economic crisis today, had the government not written off bank loans worth Rs 10 lakh crore, he said in an apparent attack on the Modi government.
Meanwhile, the AAP on Wednesday said a "rebellion" seems to be brewing in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP's top leadership after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced free bus rides to women above 60 years.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the UP chief minister is adopting the "Kejriwal model" despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's opposition to freebies.
Earlier in the day, chief minister Adityanath announced in a tweet in Hindi, "Very soon in Uttar Pradesh, we are going to make arrangements for mothers and sisters above 60 years of age to avail free rides in government buses."
Reacting to Adityanath's tweet, AAP national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said on the microblogging site, "After Bihar, there seems to be a rebellion against Modi ji in UP."
AAP's political affairs committee member Atishi also took a swipe at the prime minister as she tweeted, "So Modi opposes freebies and Yogi proposes freebies."
"Battle lines are drawn within the BJP," Atishi, who is an MLA from Delhi's Kalkaji, added.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal retweeted the comments of his party leaders on the microblogging site, but did not make any comment.
The AAP has been defending freebies since Prime Minister Modi, while addressing the gathering at an event in UP last month, cautioned people against what he called a "revadi culture" of offering freebies and said this is very "dangerous" for the development of the country.
Kejriwal and his party leaders have been targeting the prime minister over his remark, contending that providing free and good education, healthcare services, electricity, water and other facilities to the people are not freebies, but the waiver of bank loans by the government to "few friends".
On August 3, the Centre came out in full support of a public interest litigation (PIL) against the practice of political parties promising handouts during elections and told the Supreme Court that distribution of freebies inevitably leads to "future economic disaster".
The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana asked all stakeholders, including the Centre, NITI Aayog, Finance Commission and the RBI to brainstorm the issue of freebies promised during elections and come out with "constructive suggestions" to deal with it.
The schemes for the socio-economic welfare of the deserving and disadvantaged masses cannot be described as "freebies", the AAP submitted before the Supreme Court on Monday while seeking to intervene in the pending petition on the issue.
Opposing the plea filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay seeking action against political parties for promising freebies during elections, the AAP said the schemes for the deserving and disadvantaged people cannot be considered handouts.
The Kejriwal-led party alleged that the petitioner (Upadhyay) is attempting to use the device of PIL to "camouflage" a thinly veiled attempt at furthering a particular political agenda.
The CPI(M) on Wednesday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his freebies remarks and said that the only freebies on offer were the loan waivers to "crony" industrialists.
Dedicating to the nation a Rs 900 crore second-generation ethanol plant at Panipat in Haryana, the prime minister attacked certain opposition parties for engaging in politics of freebies, saying such things would only do a disservice to the nation as it hampers investment in new technology.
"The poor citizens of this country are not getting any freebies. The PM and the government have been elected by the people to do their duty and ensure that all the people get their constitutional rights. Income inequality has sharply risen under this government. All citizens have the right to a dignified life, food, health and education. Nothing is "free" or "muft". This is all people's money."
"Freebies are what cronies get when loans of ?10L cr of friendly businessmen are written off in last six years," said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury in a tweet.
He also said that freebies are when a new aircraft, a new car and a new house is built for self when these are not needed.
"Freebies are money spent on PR and advertising of one man. India is a welfare state. The money is of the people not of the government or the PM. To take care of the people is a duty of the government not some favour or charity. This kind of language used by PM must be condemned by all," Yechury said.