Rivals in politics, but united in purpose. While the ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK defended the promise of freebies in election manifestos, the DMDK and PMK on Monday opposed it.
Significantly, the AIADMK and the DMK have been in power and are sworn rivals in the political sphere. The DMDK and PMK, which have never been in power but remaining antagonistic all along, wanted the concept of making poll promises like free electricity banned. They articulated their views at an all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission in Delhi on Monday.
“Assistance given to the weaker sections should not be looked at as freebies, myopically. The purpose for which such assistance is extended alone is relevant,” AIADMK general secretary and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said in her communication to the Election Commission. The representatives of the AIADMK echoed her views at the meeting.
Giving examples, Jayalalithaa said “providing mixies and grinders to women living below the poverty line liberates them from drudgery and distributing livestock to them under welfare schemes acts as catalysts for their economic growth. These should not be considered as freebies.” “To uphold the spirit of democracy, only the people have to decide about the practicability of implementation of the promises made by the political parties,” she said adding that institutions like the Election Commission should not be allowed to sit in decision on these matters.
Jayalalithaa said any guidelines or restrictions by way of a Code of Conduct imposed on political parties regarding their election manifesto would only amount to interfering in the free and fair election process and placing curbs on political parties from propagating their ideology. “This will undermine the spirit of democracy and also fetter liberal thought,” she added.
T R Baalu, DMK parliamentary party leader said, “till such time the socio-economic disparities exist in our society, political parties have got the meaningful right to promise to bring a level playing field between the haves and have-nots, which would be subject to legislative measures and processes before implementing those promises by that party when it comes to power.” Opposing the freebies, the DMDK urged the Election Commission to take action against all political parties that had announced freebies in the recently held elections as per the provision of The Representation of the People’s Act and to prevent such ‘corruption’ in future in the interests of the nation.
Strongly opposing freebies, the PMK said they were a burden on the treasury and had drastic socio-economic consequences. “Freebies make the people utterly lazy. Our promises should not be freebies but programmes, which will improve the basic life standards of the people and overall development,” the PMK said. The party further pointed out that freebies had placed a burden of `45,176 crore on the budget for the current year by the State government and that the total bill so far had come to `1,55,129 crore. The party termed this ‘wasteful expenditure’ and suggested it was against the Constitution.