Freebie Culture: From Washing Machines to Govt Jobs, AIADMK promises the moon to voters

The ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu released a manifesto, with competitive populist announcements, such as the promise of giving free ‘Amma’ (Jayalalithaa) washing machines, solar stoves, 2GB data for college students, door delivery of ration items, concessional travel in public transport for women along with the previously announced six free LPG cylinders in a year. 
On the political side, though it had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act, it said it would urge the Centre not to implement it. In fact, Palaniswami has been lately going out of the way to explain to the electorate that the AIADMK’s tie up with the BJP is only for facing the elections. 
“Alliance is different from principles. Even the DMK had allied with the BJP in 1999 and shared power with them,” he has been saying in his election tours, conscious that the party could lose the support of minorities. In fact, the AIADMK manifesto promised the setting up of an Islamic University to be named after Quaid-E-Millat.

Some of the promises were similar to those made by the DMK a day ago such as waiver of education loans, free milk for students in morning breakfast, and 12 month maternity leave. The ruling party, which is seeking a third straight term, is facing its first Assembly elections sans a towering charismatic leader. 

In addition to promising to implement the Amma Banking Card – promised by Jayalalithaa in 2016 – it announced schemes for MGR green auto and an ‘Amma’ housing scheme for the poor. The party also reiterated its five year old promise to introduce liquor prohibition in phases. It assured that free Arasu Cable TV connections would be provided to households.

It remains to be seen how this freebie culture will gain votes for political parties. The same freebie distribution, without considering its burden on the state, is also being carried out in Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, the culture of freely distributing household items is not only damaging in the long run but also may shift voters’ behaviour from looking at the long-term benefits of a political party voted to power to a momentary cash/material benefit.

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