Free ration promise need of poor or ploy to lure voters? Experts speak

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The Congress on Wednesday promised to double the quantity of free ration provided by the NDA government to the poor if the INDIA bloc is voted to power. Notably, the BJP-led NDA government provides five kilograms of rations to the poor every month under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package.

“You are giving 5 kg, if INDIA bloc government is formed, we will give 10 kg of rations to the poor,” said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge.

The BJP, on the other hand, accused Kharge of making “false promises” to win Lok Sabha elections.

“Kharge is lying,” senior BJP leader Arjun Ram Meghwal. “They want to come to power by making false promises. The people will not forgive them and believe in what they say.”

However, will increasing the quantity of free rations help the poor or is it a ploy to lure voters? India Today TV spoke to Reetika Khera, Professor of Economics at IIT Delhi, and Professor Sanjay Kumar, co-director of Lokniti, to throw more light on the issue.

Participating in the prime time News Today debate on India Today TV with Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai, Professor Reetika Khera said she was surprised by the promise of an additional 5 kg ration by Kharge. She also said that instead of focusing on quantity, the focus should be on the quality of ration now.

“I am not a big fan of putting more resources into providing more food grain alone. It made a lot of sense during the Covid lockdown when there was very widespread distress. But right now, I feel the push should be towards more nutritious foods. And therefore, I think the promise of dal and oil is quite important,” Professor Khera said.

She said she found the Congress manifesto “much stronger than the BJP’s on issues of social policy”.

“We were not very happy with the Food Security Act that the UPA government brought in 2013, because they did not provide for dal and oil. Whereas now in their manifesto, they’ve promised dal and oil. And another big gap in the Food Security Act was the lack of community kitchens, like Amma Canteens in Tamil Nadu and Indira Canteens in Karnataka. That has been included in the 2024 manifesto. So just those two things alone, I think, are very noteworthy manifesto promises,” she said.

When asked whether voters will be swayed by the free ration promises, Professor Sanjay Kumar said the BJP’s scheme did have an impact during the last elections.

“When we talk about the free ration, we do get a sense from the studies which we have done that it has made a huge impact on how the poor and the lower class voters have voted in the recent past. We see the BJP making huge inroads among the poor voters. If we look at the voters in terms of different classes, if we look at how poor sections of voters voted for BJP in 2014 and 2019, and the pre-poll surveys which we did just before the election, it has made a huge impact,” said Professor Kumar.

“The BJP has been able to make huge inroads among the poor sections of the society. So that the free ration scheme is appealing to one section of the people,” he added.

When asked if the voters are swayed more by promises such as free rations or by Hindu-Muslim politics, Professor Kumar said there are takers for both.

“It (Hindu-Muslim) has little appeal among the poor sections of the people, but when you talk about the educated urban middle class, this is a very appealing factor for them. So it’s a twin issue which appeals to two different sections of voters,” he said.

Published By:

Sudeep Lavania

Published On:

May 16, 2024



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