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AAP, BJP war of words over political freebies continues

Updated on Aug 13, 2022 05:51 AM IST

The political acrimony over the culture of freebies in politics continued on Friday with the BJP hitting out at AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, terming his schemes of free power and water as bait to trap people for political benefit.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia addresses reporters on Friday. (Amal K S/HT photo)
By, New Delhi

The political acrimony over the culture of freebies in politics continued on Friday with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hitting out at Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal, terming his schemes of free power and water as bait to trap people for political benefit. On the other hand, senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia lashed out against the central government saying it was trying to spread fear by alleging welfare schemes will destroy the country.

Speaking at a press conference in the national capital on Friday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that Delhi chief minister Kejriwal’s sole purpose is to establish prominence in the country, “therefore he is speaking lies to the people of the country about freebies”.

Patra added that the purpose of welfare schemes floated by the Centre was “totally different” as compared to “Kejriwal’s freebies”.

“Freebies are not only meant for the poor, but for everyone. Their main purpose is to grab power. Such schemes are not beneficial for the country in the long run and have only short term benefits, for one person and one political party,” said Patra, adding, “Kejriwal’s freebies are bait to trap people for his own political benefit.”

“Welfare schemes are aimed at a specific target group which is economically weaker, to make them self-dependent and economically empowered by providing sustainable support,” he added.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur also jumped into the fray on Friday. Speaking to news agency ANI, he termed Kejriwal a “jhootmantri” (a minister of lies).

“Arvind Kejriwal is ‘jhootmantri’ and spread lies and fears. He fought an election on the issue of corruption but is running a corrupt government. Their health minister is in jail, while the health system, including Mohalla clinics, are in a shambles,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

Meanwhile, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia held a briefing where he attacked the Centre over its stand.

He argued that examples of all the major developed economies in the world show that the only way to develop a country is by investing in citizens, their health, education and welfare.

He said that country is now being presented with two distinct governance models: “...dostwad (crony capitalism), which advocates people sitting in power helping their rich friends by waiving off loans worth several lakh crores, while under our model, tax collected from citizens is used to provide good government schools, hospitals, free and cheap electricity, free bus rides to women and other public welfare schemes.”

“...people in power have waived off taxes worth 5 lakh crore and loans worth 10 lakh crore for their friends while common citizens got nothing... Finance minister should pay attention that in our country, if a farmer is unable to pay the loan instalment, then the government and their supporters seize and auction their land and homes. Loans of farmers are not waived, but such benefits are extended to friends,” he said.

He added that even though the BJP governments in states do not believe in welfare schemes, they are all running a deficit, whereas the Delhi government is running a revenue surplus state.

“Uttar Pradesh is in 81,000 crore deficit; Gujarat is in 36,000 crore deficit; Madhya Pradesh is in 49,000 crore deficit. Where does the taxpayers’ money go? People are paying taxes but money is being diverted in waiving off loans of their friends. Our government is revenue-surplus with all the welfare schemes, and even the CAG recognizes this,” he said.

Sisodia was adding to a heated exchange between Kejriwal and Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday. While Kejriwal had called for referendum on spending of taxpayers’ money, the Union finance minister had said he is giving a “perverse twist” to the debate on freebies. She said Kejriwal’s freebies in education and health are an attempt to create fear in the minds of the poor. She had, instead, called for a “genuine debate” on the matter of freebies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in recent days hit out at the competitive populism of extending ‘revaris’ (freebies) saying they are not just a waste of taxpayers’ money, but also an economic disaster that could hamper India’s drive to become aatmanirbhar (self-reliant).

The ongoing debate over freebies has also reached the apex court. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had suggested setting up a specialised body to examine “irrational freebies” offered to voters during elections.

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the “freebie culture” has been elevated to the level of “art” for fighting elections and will lead to “disaster” if some political parties understand this is the only way to deliver public welfare measures.

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