As BJP gets into poll mode, is Centre getting ready to shower freebies?
The government's recent decision to reduce prices of cooking gas cylinders by Rs 200 has once again brought the issue of freebie to the fore
Even though the entire Opposition has been accusing the BJP of being in election campaign mode round the year, top BJP leaders say every decision taken by the Modi government is in the "interest of the country", which has prompted some "bold decisions".
BJP leaders say the Centre did not shy away from taking such decisions as, for instance, demonetisation, GST implementation, etc. And as far as elections are concerned, the government focuses only on governance for the first four years of its term and then enters electoral politics in its fifth and final term.
Seen from this perspective, the fifth year of the second term of the Modi government has already begun, and with the poll bugle having sounded, the BJP has entered the electoral field by dedicating various major announcements ostensibly for the people.
The government's recent announcement of reducing the prices of cooking gas cylinders by Rs 200 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan has once again brought the issue of 'revri politics' (offering freebies) to the forefront before the upcoming Lok Sabha and several crucial assembly elections in the country.
Reacting to his government's decision to cut LPG prices, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, "The festival of Raksha Bandhan is a day to spread happiness in our family. The reduction in gas prices will ease the burden of the sisters (women) of my family and their life will become easy. May every sister of mine remain happy and healthy, this is my wish from God."
On the other hand, union home minister Amit Shah said the people will get relief from inflation and women will no longer be exposed to working in smoke-filled household chulhas (baked earth ovens).
"On the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan and Onam, Prime Minister Modi has given a discount of Rs 200 on gas cylinders used in domestic households by the mothers and sisters of the country. With this decision, the total subsidy on gas cylinders available under the Ujjwala scheme will now be Rs 400. This will provide relief to the public from the rising inflation due to the changing global scenario. Along with this, the union cabinet has also approved 75 lakh new Ujjwala gas connections, which will help poor and needy mothers get rid of smoke-emitting wooden chulhas," Shah said.
BJP national president JP Nadda added, "Heartfelt gratitude for the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the decision to drastically reduce the price of LPG gas (sic) cylinders across the country. Now Ujjwala scheme beneficiaries will be able to avail LPG gas cylinders at Rs 700 and all other usual consumers will now be able to purchase LPG cylinders at Rs 900. This is Modi ji's gift to our 'Nari Shakti' (women power) on the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan. This decision of Modiji will benefit 33 crore consumers across the country."
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP received nearly 23 crore (230 million) votes, and if the Opposition INDIA bloc announces a common candidate from the alliance during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in 400-450 seats against the BJP, the BJP will need nearly six to eight crore more votes to win more than 300 seats.
However, several Opposition party leaders have taken a gibe at the Modi government's announcement of reducing LPG cylinder prices and asked PM Modi whether the BJP is also indulging in 'revari politics' (freebie politics) which he and his government have vehemently criticised.
BJP leaders are refusing to call this decision by the Modi government a freebie. They say this measure will improve the standard of living of the mothers and sisters of the country and ease their difficulties.
According to a top cabinet minister in the Modi government, the PM could make several big announcements in the coming days to ease the difficulties of the people, to reduce the economic burden on them and to improve their standards of living. The Modi government is making a poll pitch dedicating development projects for the people of the country.
BJP national spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam has said the way PM Modi "gifted the mothers and sisters of the country" a reduced price of cooking gas cylinders on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, is the same way he will "keep giving gifts to the people of the country".
It is clear that political tussle regarding 'revari politics' is likely to continue in the future.