Amid giveaway debate, BJP embellishes sops as tools for female empowerment

Amid a raging political debate over the feasibility of parties announcing giveaways ahead of elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is targeting its opponents for straining the public treasury by promising waivers of amenities and other services chose to embellish sops as empowerment tools especially for women.

Senior party leaders said there is a fine line between freebies and empowerment and he identified the model that empowers the poor and marginalized without having to resort to “avoidable spending”.

“Some interventions are necessary to uplift the community as a whole and there are avoidable expenses such as free units of electricity and transport services which end up draining the treasury,” a senior party official said in response to a question on how the BJP’s announcements might be perceived differently from those made by its opponents such as the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Congress. Both opposition parties have made a host of promises, including free electricity up to a certain level of consumption and other pecuniary benefits in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

On Monday, while announcing a separate manifesto for women ahead of the November 12 elections in Himachal Pradesh, BJP National Chairman JP Nadda defended the document which promises sops such as free cooking gas cylinders and money under various headings as an empowerment tool.

“There is a fine line between empowerment and attribution…we are for empowerment and that’s what we said to the Electoral Commission as well,” Nadda said.

In a letter to the EC last month, the party said it sought to empower voters and build their capacity for their overall development, not just focus on short-term measures such as giveaways to woo voters. voters before the elections. The letter was a response to the polling panel seeking input on proposed changes to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that will require parties to provide details of the “financial implications” of promises made in election manifestos.

Reiterating the empowerment aspect of the poll’s pledges, Nadda said the party strongly believes that if society is to move forward, then women must be empowered. “Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi brought policies to empower women and improve their condition. About 11 to 12 million families had no toilets, which meant that the women in these families had no dignity. In the kitchen there is a gas cylinder instead of wood now, there is dignity… law and order has improved and there are means for their education,” he said. he declares.

In the manifesto which broadly makes 11 promises for the empowerment of women, the party pledged 33% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions; scooters for girls pursuing higher education; three free LPG bottles to women from poor families and 51,000 for the marriage of the daughters of these families and interest-free loans to women entrepreneurs.

In recent elections, women’s issues were given considerable prominence in manifestos released by the party, but with the issue of freebies and their financial ramifications dominating the narrative in the polls, the party had to alter its poll promises by focusing on women. which have emerged as a crucial vote bank.

Earlier this year, the party in its manifesto for Goa pledged to provide three free LPG bottles to every household, 33% reservation for women in all future public sector recruitments and women-only police stations in each taluka. In Uttarakhand, he promised to give 500 per month to female heads of each poor family, a corpus of 500 Crores for Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Amendment of the Law Against So-called ‘Love Jihad’ to ensure women’s safety.

The party hopes that with promises centered on women, it will also resist the lure of government jobs and the old pension scheme promised by its opponents. There is a section of leaders who admit that taking a stand against populist policies can have a negative impact on the electoral outcome.

“The Prime Minister is unambiguous that he is against the culture of revdis (gifts), but in the field of competition policy, the BJP has two challenges, the first is to identify what a freebie is and the second is how to counter the announcements of the opponents, ”said a former minister and a senior civil servant.

Citing the example of how Congress won Chhattisgarh assembly polls in 2018 by promising financial benefits, a second official said: “When Congress announced loan waivers and bounties on purchases of paddy, the BJP did not anticipate the impact this would have and ended up paying. a hefty price. So until there is a consensus on the giveaways, there is no choice but to find ways to match the ads.

The opposition, however, accused the BJP of doublespeak. Former minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram recently criticized the BJP for announcing the waiver of penalties for traffic offenses in Gujarat and announcing additional free LPG cylinders.

Responding to criticism, a third BJP leader said the party is committed to a pro-poor welfare state but does not want to make promises that will damage the economic structure.

“Our government gave free vaccines, but in doing so it did not collapse the economic structure. Look at Punjab (governed by AAP), they are struggling to pay salaries today. This is a model we should be wary of,” the third leader said.


    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old-school leg work with modern storytelling tools.
    …See the details

Mara R. Wilmoth