Thursday, March 31, 2011


Truly we are a land of paradoxes…

Indian poor have very little in their life to celebrate as most of the times they are in the midst of a perpetual struggle for a dignified and sustained livelihood. However, life cannot always be cruel. So the poor, too, have occasions to rejoice, most prominently during the elections. It's the time when political parties, both regional and national, leave no stone unturned to lure voters to their folds. If one party announces unimaginable development schemes, the other introduces unbelievable sops and subsidies for common people. Some political parties even go to the extent of directly distributing cash to their voters!

As elections are slated to be held in a number of states, political parties are busy announcing and giving freebies. If in Assam they are trying to lure the electorate by providing free solar lamps and CFL tubes, in Bengal, it is the promise of reservation and jobs. Kerala is not behind either — from distributing free timber to providing scholarships to poor students, they are trying everything. The poor in Tamil Nadu have the biggest reason to celebrate. On February 28, more than 1.60 crore television sets were distributed as part of DMK’s election campaign. The party also distributed 9.1 lakh TV coupons to the beneficiaries. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also distributed free bicycles to students studying in government and aided schools. The bicycles, estimated to be worth at Rs 149.58 crore, were distributed to more than five lakh students. What's more, he also announced free washing machines and refrigerators! The icing on the cake was when DMK promised free laptops to first-year students coming from the weaker sections of society and pursuing professional degree courses in government or aided colleges.

Interesting, isn’t it? On the face of it, all this looks like election gimmick and has invited a lot of flak from popular media which termed this as blatant buying of votes. Whatever the political parties might say, but the fact is that it is indeed buying of loyalties. More so because most of the recipients are poor and illiterate and thus unable to see the agenda behind these freebies. However, I do not see anything wrong in this!

My reasons are based on a basic assumption that in India most political parties are cash rich and they have an enormous election budget. And irrespective of whatever action is taken against them, buying of votes is an unfortunate reality and would remain so. In fact, it has only grown over time. So, considering that votes would ultimately be bought, then bicycles, cell phones, laptops and jobs are far better options than a bottle of liquor! It's because by giving these, the politicians are making the poor have something which the latter cannot otherwise afford. In addition to this, each such freebie brings in a huge productive engagement for the recipient and along with that the resultant internal and external economies. So if TV and mobile phones open a new world to the have-nots and make them more aware, then bicycles and laptops respectively provide students better mobility and information access. Not to forget that television sets, mobile phones and laptops are actually used and this usage adds to the national GDP. Apart from statistics, what is more significant here is that it brings joy and smile on the faces of these poor and hapless people. And mind you, all this for votes!

All in all, this is a classic paradoxical situation of wrong intentions but great outcomes! But that’s what politics is all about!



  1. Likely the situation in Kashmir is same as the states defined in this blog, where people only voted just to have better conditions in terms of electricity,water,shelter-facilities.

  2. My email to Dr. Kalam on election reform 22-Aug-2004