A game of one-upmanship can be expected before the 2024 Parliament polls. The tone was set in Karnataka, where the Congress party promised the moon to the people through its manifesto and registered a resounding victory. The first step Siddaramaiah’s cabinet took post haste was to implement the five promises the party made in the manifesto – including a payment of Rs 2000 to every housewife every month as dole and similar payments to jobless graduates and diploma holders, etc. The BJP promised to ensure security to women in the streets, but this was “too little.” The Congress party, energized by the Karnataka win, is set to make similar offers to the voters in Madhya Pradesh and possibly in the other assembly-poll-bound states too.
For, this is a do-or-die battle for the Congress party at this hour. The party had tasted success on another front too in the polls in Himachal Pradesh, when it promised to restore the Old Pension System for government employees – something that had been revised to a Contributory Pension Scheme in 2003 by the AB Vajpayee government and which was backed by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA governments too. The Planning Commission then headed by Singh had cautioned that a return to OPS would bankrupt governments. But, the Congress governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh etc have already returned to the OPS to please this influential segment. At what cost to the nation, is the big question. Caught in a cleft stick, the Centre has set up a high-level panel to review the OPS-CPS scenario.
In terms of doles, chances are that the BJP would initiate a matching “wooing” exercise in the run-up to the Parliament polls. BJP failed to outwit the Congress in Karnataka as it had already released its manifesto of promises a day before the Congress did it. A recent attempt to effect checks on political parties vis-à-vis making poll-related offers that would jeopardize the economy should have been taken forward with the Supreme Court’s involvement. The present scenario would snowball into a huge threat not just to the economy but to democracy and national well-being too. Regional party leaders are masters in playing dirty games. The Congress too has degraded itself to that level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have acted in the best interests of the nation and stemmed the rot. The dole raj must end. As a Chinese proverb aptly says, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you give him a fishing rod, you feed him for a lifetime.” Wisdom is alien to the mindset of our politicians.
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