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Kejriwal and his ‘Offerdom’

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AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has been making a bundle of electoral promises that not just looks economically impossible but has inherent capacity to create social divisions, regional hatred and ecological disaster.

In the Indian cinemas when the King or the ‘raja saab’ would be happy with someone in his durbar, he would confer upon the man who is the cause of his happiness by showering his jewels and luxury ornaments at him. It looked so dramatic at times. The Indian politicians too have to be dramatic these days as the electoral politics has become just intense as the multiparty system is developed in the country. One politician who can be conferred as the drama king, who is ready to oblige his subjects with unlimited freebies and offers, is Arvind Kejriwal. 

Just as the Congress party is witnessing decline in state after state due to the exodus of its local leadership and a persisting confusion at the high command, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo is on the spree of offering immense number of freebies to the electorate in one state after the other that are about to go to polls next year; most notably the five states that are in line in the early months. 

Punjab is in proximity of AAP as it’s the second largest party in the state and has the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly dismantling the premier position held by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a slew of promises, Arvind Kejriwal has announced that if Punjab voters voted AAP into power in the state, his party will transfer Rs 1,000 per month to the account of every woman. “If there are three women in one household— a bahu (daughter-in-law), a beti (daughter) and saas (mother-in-law)— all three will get this amount,” Kejriwal declared during the launch of ‘Mission Punjab.’ Kejriwal seems to have made the calculations. As per Election Commission of India (ECI) Punjab has over 96 lakh women voters and most of them come from the Dalit and other marginalized segments for whom Rs 1000 per month is a considerable amount. The AAP chief has also held that as far as the elderly women are concerned, they will keep getting their old-age pension separately. 

Eyeing women vote bank

Punjab’s political scenario is quite changed this time. What looked a stable government of the Congress a few months ago, looks like not repeating itself in 2022 as Captain Amarinder is building his army to see the Congress defeated and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the party chief in Punjab, is working day and night to bring Congress bastion down by targeting Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. Even with the rollback of three farm laws, the SAD doesn’t look like gaining popular support this time around. BJP doesn’t have a chance of its own in the state and BSP is just a side-kick of the SAD for all practical purposes for it gets no more than 2-3 per cent of the total votes polled in a state that has highest percentage of Dalit population. Hence, Kejriwal has decided to carve out a gender vote bank if he has to ensure his party rises from number two to number one position. 

He is making similar offers to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Goa voters. Just a week ago, Kejriwal promised to introduce a free pilgrimage scheme for different communities of Uttarakhand if AAP makes the next government. In Haridwar, he held, “Hindus will be taken to Ayodhya, Muslims to Ajmer Sharif and Sikhs to Kartarpur Sahib. I want to give all our elders the experience of going on a free pilgrimage to Ayodhya and having a darshan of Ram Lalla." 

The Delhi Chief Minister has a different pilgrimage offer for the people of Goa where he said that in his future government in the state, he will take people free of cost to Ayodhya for the Hindus, Velankanni for the Christians, Ajmer Sharif for the Muslims and also Shirdi for those who wish to go there. One should remember that Goa has a good population of over 25 per cent of Christians and also about 9 per cent Muslims; who had earlier voted for the Congress mainly. 

Free pilgrimage scheme

But political analysts, just like many of the voters, are wary of the reservation issue which Arvind Kejriwal is raking up because it will create social divisions, hamper economic growth and harm national integration in the long run. In Goa, Kejriwal has promised to bring a legislation to reserve 80 per cent of the jobs in the private sector for locals if his party is voted to power; besides providing an unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 every month per family if it doesn’t get a job assured by him. Then there are freebies in terms of electricity and water. 

The reason for offering such freebies and the reservation plank is the changed political gambit of Goa. The Congress had 17 seats in the Assembly of 40, maximum by a party, but the BJP formed the government and poached most of its MLA’s to leave the Congress tally at just four present. Trinamool Congress has entered Goa with the defection of Luizinho Faleiro and the many second rung leaders of Congress, which means further division of votes of the Congress. In the last Assembly elections of 2017, though AAP did not win a seat in the state but their share of votes – 6.3 per cent – were double the votes garnered by key parties in state like Goa Forward Party (GFP) that has two seats and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that has one seat. Going by the standards, Kejriwal sees a good chance this time to raise his party’s tally to a respectable number. 

Free electricity in UP

As far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned, the Delhi CM has a dangerous plan– one that has taken the region of Punjab and Haryana to ecological disaster. He has promised to give ‘free electricity to all the farmers,’ thereby allowing them to mine as much water from the ground and take the state ecologically to Western India. Not just this, he has gone on to say that besides providing a 24-hour power supply, he will also waive off outstanding bills of 38 lakh families if AAP is brought to power in UP by the voters. Party MP Sanjay Singh has met Akhilesh Yadav and pre pre-election alliance may be under formulation. 

Though Himachal Pradesh elections will be held in the later part of 2022, Arvind Kejriwal has directed his freebies to that direction well in advance. While looking to contest all the 68 seats in the Assembly polls, the party has already chalked out a bundle of freebies and promises similar to those made already in other states. Himachal Pradesh party in-charge Ratnesh Gupta has promised 80 per cent job quota for people and every youth of the state would get employment and also assured a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 to an individual from every family till they get a job. But it will be too much to ask the AAP leadership to tell the mathematics behind the move as to how they would get resources to fulfill the plan. 

AAP is eyeing a chance to make its debut in the state which has a history of changing the governments every five years. In the recent by polls, the Congress had swept all the three Assembly seats and the Mandi parliamentary seat. It’s a clear signal that the present ruling dispensation is suffering from anti-incumbency and Arvind Kejriwal is just looking to get some share in terms of votes and seats to begin with. The Congress on the other hand has the benefit of anti-incumbency but after the passing away of its tall leader Virbhadra Singh, there has been intense factionalism and in-fighting in the party.

Freebie promises questioned

Just when the Delhi Chief Minister was busy throwing freebies and promises in these states, something funny happened in Delhi. The Delhi High Court has bashed him quite badly over one of his popular promise made during the outbreak of the pandemic. The Delhi Government had taken no action towards the promise made by Arvind Kejriwal on March 29, 2020, just when the pandemic had struck India, in which he had said that his government would pay the rent if any tenant was unable to do so. The court was quite harsh in its approach this time as the division bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel held, “If you can say, say boldly that I had no intention but I had spoken the statement.” The court was hearing a petition filed by five daily-wage workers and a landlord over the famous promise made by Kejriwal. 

The travesty is that even the Election Commission of India has its hands tied when it comes to taking action against such rampant hollow promises being flooded by parties during election seasons, it said in 2015. Though the commission had urged all the parties to desist from making such commitments, the suggestion was simply ignored and Arvind Kejriwal is primary evidence of it. 

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