BHUBANESWAR: Promises of freebies are raining in Odisha with competitive populism engulfing political parties these elections. As an all out battle ensues in the high-stake State, the election manifestos of Congress, BJP and BJD are reflecting a tussle for one-upmanship overstretching the populism to the impossible.
A study into the poll pledges of the three parties revealed a new dimension of populist schemes which have taken the centre stage this time. The Congress has promised guaranteed minimum income of Rs 72,000 per year under Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay) for below poverty line families, which has become the centre of debate in the country.
The party, in fact, has taken this further in Odisha, promising one job (Government or private) to each family and a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to the unemployed.
Another intriguing idea that finds a place in Congress manifesto titled ‘19 promises for 2019’ is a medical college and a training centre for paramedics and nurses in every district along with filling of all vacancies of doctors and nurses within a year.
Has the party done any homework on how they will be fulfilled in a State like Odisha? With the party not forthcoming on the roadmap for implementation of such promises, it appears a desperate bid to win voters by promising them the moon.
The BJP is also not far behind. High on populism, its manifesto also promises employment to one person from every family, interest-free farm loan to small and marginal farmers and pension for agriculture workers and shop owners.
If the ruling BJD has provided bicycles to school going girls, the BJP has gone a step forward and promised to provide two-wheelers to meritorious girl students after matriculation.
In its bid to woo the women SHGs, which have emerged a huge support base for BJD due to the success of the movement under Naveen Patnaik Government, the party has promised to open stores at block-level to procure their goods and link them to the market.
The BJD, however, looks fatigued in its manifesto as it has already exhausted all the sectors and sections having launched an incessant stream of populist schemes and freebies in the last five years. The struggle to come up with something new to appease is evident in the document titled ‘Naveen Odisha, Sashakt Odisha’, even as it emphasises on overall socio-economic development of farmers, women and youth.
Reservation of 75 per cent jobs in all upcoming industries for qualified local youth; making education loans interest-free; Rs 5,000 crore worth Government orders and interest free loans up to Rs 5 lakh for women SHGs; free education including engineering and medical up to PG level for girls and the marriage aid are the major takeaways besides the new initiative - Joint Upliftment of Habitations and Regions (JUHAR) to reduce regional disparities.
Political analysts and economists said pragmatism has been sacrificed at the altar of appeasement. The promises are unrealistic and if implemented will be disastrous for the State economy without any transformational impact on the people, they stated.
Economist Ramesh Chandra Mishra said the populist shockers in terms of the waiver of farm loans or interest-free loans to SHGs and farmers as envisioned by the parties will put extensive stress on financing institutions.
“Manifestos lack legal basis and are primarily a declaration of agendas. Since voters do not have the means to hold parties accountable to their promises, the political outfits continue to offer populist schemes which need to be worked out in a sensible manner,” he added.