Row between AAP and Centre over political freebies heats up

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 04:19 AM IST

The exchange – Kejriwal made the remarks in a press conference while Sitharaman reacted hours later while speaking to reporters – comes at a time when top leaders of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party have weighed in on the issue.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday hit out at the Centre over the issue of freebies. (ANI)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday hit out at the Centre over the issue of freebies. (ANI)
By, New Delhi

Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of opposing free facilities in order to benefit “its super-rich friends”, prompting a sharp response from Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who called it a “perverse twist” as the two parties intensified their war of words on “freebies”.

The exchange – Kejriwal made the remarks in a press conference while Sitharaman reacted hours later while speaking to reporters – comes at a time when top leaders of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party have weighed in on the issue.

“No central government in the country has ever complained about a shortage of funds when trying to ensure the safety of the nation. How is the central government not in a position to even give pension to soldiers? Why did it have to bring the Agniveer Yojana to end the pension system? For the first time since Independence, daily commodities are being taxed by the Centre. Today, the central government is collecting double-triple the tax it used to collect in 2014, where is all this money going?” Kejriwal said.

Sitharaman hit back at the remarks. “Delhi chief minister has given perverse twist to the debate on freebies. Health and education have never been called freebies. No Indian government has ever denied them. So, classifying education and health as freebies, Kerjiwal is trying to bring in a sense of worry and fear in minds of poor,” she said, calling for a “genuine debate on this matter”.

In a separate press conference, the BJP also attempted to counter Kejriwal’s allegations about where the money was being spent.

“Kejriwal is asking, where does the money go? It does not go to Satyendar Jain’s house, it goes to provide ration to 80 crore people, it goes [buying] to vaccines. Today is the day to catch lies,” said BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia.

He also denied the Delhi CM’s contention that there have been cuts to the funding of the MNREGA rural jobs scheme. “I would like to remind Arvind Kejriwalji about what Nirmala Sitharaman said in Parliament. The government will allocate more funds for MNREGA if needed... BJP stands by the common man,” he added.

The Delhi CM has been on a campaign against on the issue, targeting the central government and the BJP on several occasions this week. On Thursday, he said the central government used to pay 42% of the tax collected from across the country to the states, but it has now been reduced to 29-30%.

“The central government earns one thousand crores daily from taxes on petrol and diesel it earns about 3.5 lakh crores a year from it. Central government is saying that it has no money to pay 100 days of wages to the poor under MGNREGA, and has cut its budget by 25%,” he said.

The AAP, which has governments in Delhi and Punjab, is going to contest in the upcoming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. It is one state away from being recognised as a national party by the election commission.

“For the past few days, the way free services given to the public is being opposed is rather baffling. It is being said that if this is not stopped then the governments across the country will go bankrupt. They are saying it will lead to a crisis and all such services should be immediately stopped. This also creates doubt on the economic well-being of the Central Government. Such huge opposition makes me wonder if it is in bad condition.”

The BJP, in another press conference, said the Kejriwal government in Delhi has been spending crores of rupees to advertise its “revdi model” across the country.

“As we can observe the trend in various countries, those who practised the policy of providing freebies were embroiled in several corrupt practices. Kejriwal chose to take this comment personally. There is difference between welfare policy and revdi politics. Welfare policies empower a targeted section who have been deprived of necessities. These add to the productivity of the population. Whereas, revdi culture is a lollipop dished out for political gains and makes no transformation to people’s lives. They misuse the taxpayer’s money,” said BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla.

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