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Pre-poll announcements shouldn’t be banned, Delhi CM Kejriwal bats for freebies after SC order

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Defending freebies after the top court’s order, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has said pre-poll announcements shouldn’t be banned.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said giving away crores of rupees from the government exchequer to “friends” will lead to economic crisis, and not by providing free facilities to people, insisting that there should not be a ban on pre-poll announcements by political parties.

His remarks came after the Supreme Court asked all the stakeholder, including the Centre, Niti Aayog, Finance Commission and the RBI, to brainstorm the issue of freebies announced during elections and come out with “constructive suggestions”, noting that no political party would oppose freebies and debate on it in Parliament.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), termed the issue of political parties promising freebies as “serious” and indicated that it would order setting up a body for suggesting measures to the government to deal with the issue.

The Centre, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, apprised the bench of its fresh stand in the matter and supported the PIL, saying the distribution of freebies inevitably leads to “future economic disaster”.

“Providing facilities to the people for free will not cause an economic crisis,” Kejriwal said in a series of tweets in Hindi, reacting to the apex court’s directive.

But there will be an economic crisis “by giving free benefits of lakhs of crores of rupees to friends,” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor added in a veiled attack on the BJP-led central government.

Kejriwal questioned the move to bring the spotlight on the issue and wondered how the announcement of freebies during elections would lead to an economic crisis.

“Ban on announcements before elections? Why? How will announcements lead to economic crisis?” he asked.

Without naming anyone, he alleged, “their target is somewhere else.”

Kejriwal insisted that there should not be a ban on announcement of freebies during elections and called on the people to consider whether the governments should provide good education to children and free medical treatment to people or waive the repayment of loan of those “looting” the country’s banks.

“Whether our children should get free/good education, whether every Indian should get good medical treatment for free or outstanding loan of those looting the bank be waived — the country should consider this,” he said.

Kejriwal, however, favoured giving loan waiver as well as “free or cheaper” facilities to private companies. He also favoured providing facilities to the ministers for free.

“Announcements should not be banned. That not more than a part of the government budget is spent on free(bies) may be considered,” he said.

He added, “Free should include facilities provided to the ministers and the free/cheap facility and waiver of loans to any company.”

The AAP has been defending announcement of freebies during elections since Prime Minister Modi, while addressing an event organised to inaugurate 296-km Bundelkhand Expressway in Uttar Prtadesh last month, cautioned people against what he called as “revadi culture” of offering freebies for garnering votes, and called it “very dangerous” for the development of the country.

The AAP, which formed its government in Punjab after a landslide victory in the assembly polls earlier this year, is gearing up to contest all seats in the upcoming assembly elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Kejriwal recently announced that his party will provide 300 units of free electricity per month to every household in Guajrat and also gave a guarantee of providing job to every youth in the state if voted to power in the upcoming assembly elections.

He also promised to give an allowance of Rs 3,000 per month to those unemployed in the state if his party is voted to power.

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