The BJP is trying to win Punjabi voters’ hearts through the stomach — with dollops of ghee.
The party sweetened its atta-dal sop with a promise of highly subsidised desi ghee and sugar for the state’s 14 million below poverty line (BPL) beneficiaries earlier this week.
Now, they can look forward to getting two kilos of desi ghee at a mere Rs 25 a kg, and five kilos of sugar at a discounted rate of Rs 10 a kg. Wheat flour will continue to cost Re 1 a kilo.
The BJP’s ghee treat comes close on the heels of subsidised tea promised by state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh.
The BJP stuck to ghee packaged in saffron containers despite Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of BJP’s poll partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), trying to push edible oil as a more cost-effective alternative to clarified butter.
Unwilling to be trumped even by its own ally, the Akalis have now promised gaushalas in every district to keep the ghee flowing.
The dole was probably inspired by Amritsar, a place known for its high consumption of ghee.
The Punjabi love for Indian clarified butter is evident from the manner in which Verka desi ghee, the main export of the Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited, has become a worldwide success.
The state’s passion for desi ghee laddoos forms the foundation for one of its most modern private universities. The owners of Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar had started off as traders specialising in this very variety of sweetmeat. The recall value of ‘Lovely laddoos’ was so great that they decided to retain it in the university’s title.
Experts are not amused by the BJP’s offer.
Economist Sucha Singh Gill, who is yet to receive his pension amount for the month from the Patiala-based Punjabi University, termed it “competitive populism” at its worst. “This state is reeling under a Rs 1.25 lakh-crore debt. It has to borrow to pay the interest on its debt. Who, then, will pay for this desi ghee?”
Dr SS Johl, chancellor of the Central University of Punjab at Bathinda, called it one of the most absurd promises made in state politics. “Why don’t they promise mirch-masala and milk as well?” he remarked.
Devinder Sharma, founder of Kisan Ekta, a union of 65 farmers’ organisations, found the BJP poll promise funny.
“The saying, ‘aapke munh mein ghee shakkar’ rings true now.”