The Election Manifesto of the National Parties Offers Nothing But Imprudent Freebies!

  • It is becoming increasingly clear that the national political parties have nothing tangible to offer the electorate vis-à-vis developments, prosperity, and growth prospects for the overall well-being of the state. Consider the proposals made in the manifestos of the various national political parties in Karnataka. The Grand Old Party has gone to town by assuring five guarantees that, prima facie, appear economically unfeasible to implement, let alone proposing to generate the requisite revenue to sustain those freebies. Even the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party has nothing new to offer but to contentedly cling to the tried-and-true freebies. This is despite the Prime Minister himself ridiculing the freebie culture on more than one occasion of late.

PC: Prachi Salve

  • Even a regional outfit like the JD (S) has nothing novel in terms of workable offerings to impress upon the electorate. All the major players in the fray are offering either freebies and sops or attempting to whip up a communal frenzy, only further exacerbating the already polarized society. Needless to mention, a defining feature of a successful political party is having its fingers on the pulse of the people. Sadly, a look at the manifestos of Karnataka’s two primary contenders, the BJP and Congress, through this lens shows that their reading of the economic situation is fairly similar. No surprises there. Of course, the party’s welfare package serves as a proxy indicator of their on-the-ground assessment of the sources of economic stress.
  • Ideally speaking, the emphasis should have been on alleviating the two most important issues of unemployment and poverty by elucidating the ways and means to achieve them. Among youth, it’s unemployment. In the case of poverty, it’s top of mind for the rural populace. Every piece of data released points out the salience of these issues. The BJP’s manifesto addresses the fallout of this trend upfront. Hence, the promise of three free LPG cylinders to all BPL families. and promise to open Atal Ahara Kendras in every ward of municipal corporations to provide affordable food. Note that Karnataka has a low overall unemployment rate; CMIE’s data places it at 2.4% in September–December 2022 period. However, youth unemployment (15–24) was 22.1% during the period.


  • No wonder the idea of monthly income support directed to the accounts of women is gaining traction among political parties, irrespective of ideologies. It’s a budget promise of the DMK government in Tamil Nadu as well. It may be indicative of the post-pandemic rise in the share of self-employed people (55.8% of the workforce in 2021–22). The moot point to ponder here is whether election manifestos should be added to India’s list of proxy economic indicators. Economists and policymakers would vouch for it. The ground reality is best illustrated by those guarantees, reflecting how common citizens, including women, are distressed. It’s a question of survival and livelihood; who cares about national jingoism? Tell that to political parties.