Skip to main content

Modi’s welfare offers: Extreme poverty led people to condone govt failures during polls

By Prasanna Mohanty* 

One of the striking factors in the BJP’s electoral win in the recently concluded election in five states is the role welfarism played in overcoming anti-incumbency. Ground reports and political analysts have reported and commented on this. The post-poll survey of Lokniti-CSDS and the exit poll of Axis-My India – two very credible organisations in the domain – have also confirmed it.
The Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey said while respondents mentioned unemployment and price rise as the key problems they face, the victory of the BJP in UP, Uttarakhand and Goa (it didn’t cover Manipur) could be explained keeping in mind the beneficiaries of free rations and cash transfers (‘labharthi’).
It also said, except Punjab, voters were more satisfied with the Central government – which provided free ration to the poor and cash transfers, than they were with the state governments (also ran by the BJP). The Axis-My India exit poll came to the same conclusion, listing delivery of Central government welfare schemes as one of the particular reasons for the BJP’s successes in four out of five states.
Welfare schemes have always existed in India; its electoral appeal is, however, unprecedented in recent memory and even unthinkable in post-liberalised India. The BJP has demonstrated that it has built up a vote bank of such beneficiaries (‘labharthi’), which Prime Minister Narendra Modi called “Vikas Yoddha” (Development Fighters), apparently to give them dignity, during the UP elections.
The Prime Minister also sought votes in the name of his ‘namak’ (salt). Reminding voters of free ration being given under the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, he said: “Here it is common discussion among people that we have eaten Modi’s ‘namak’ we wouldn’t betray him”. 
Although later he reversed his position when the opposition took a dig, it reflects a very conscious decision on his part to sold free ration as a personal favour (Modi’s ‘namak’) and seek vote for it.
This is a rare perversity for a public servant.
Free ration doesn’t come from the Prime Minister’s personal fund or that of his party’s; it is public money. Providing free ration to the poor at a time of crisis is his responsibility as a public servant, rather than charity or benevolence it is made out to.
Often enough, the Prime Minister and his colleagues have also claimed credit for supplying subsidised ration to 80 million people after the pandemic hit (separate from the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana mentioned earlier). The National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013 which mandates this (subsidised ration to 75% of rural population and 50% of urban population) pre-existed and his government is merely continuing an existing practice.
In Punjab, the Aam Admi Party’s Delhi model of welfare also played a big role in winning it election. But a distinction needs to be made here. The AAP government provides good and cheap healthcare and education, in addition to subsidized water and electricity and free door-step ration.
This the AAP government has done without putting strain on fiscal resources. In fact, the NCT of Delhi turned into a fiscal surplus state in FY18 – as the last Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report of December 2019 said. The same can’t be said of the Central government.

Dangers of welfarism swinging elections

Be that as it may, welfare measures turning into a potent electoral factor reflect that a large segment of the population is so impoverished and its living condition is so precarious that it is prepared to condone multiple government failures – rising unemployment and poverty, gross mismanagement of the pandemic and inflation etc. – in exchange for 5 kg of free wheat/rice a month (which would end on March 31, 2022). This needs serious attention of policymakers, planners and concerned citizens.
Equally big concern is if a party and government can neutralise their massive governance failures with free ration and small cash transfers, as the just concluded elections show, why would it worry about solving the challenges of unemployment and poverty?
Multiple studies have shown that even before the pandemic hit, unemployment and poverty were growing, even while the GDP growth was robust. Both Periodic Labour Force Survey and Household Consumption Expenditure Survey of 2017-18 first established that.
But the Central government has neither acknowledged nor prepared road maps to address these challenges, relying instead on growth to automatically resolve these, even after both problems got worsened due to the two years of pandemic. The article, Central flaw in the budget: Irrational reliance on the trickle-down theory”, showed how high GDP growth is not an answer since these challenges emerged despite it.
Welfarism is not bad per se, but free ration or cash handouts are temporary relief, not solutions to job crisis or growing poverty. The election results have just disincentivised political parties and governments from doing the heavy lifting.
---
*Source: Centre for Financial Accountability

Comments

Anonymous said…
All the political parties of Indian democracy are treating voters as either as beneficiary or consumer of democracy. Majority of the voters are in crisis and they think election is the best time to sell their right to vote. The political parties are purchasing vote in any terms. There is no ethics and no choice to think.

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.