It’s ‘happy hours’ in poll-bound Goa

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The political avalanche of freebies has snowballed since, following Kejriwal’s two other promises, which includes the free pilgrimage package…reports Asian Lite News

There’s little to distinguish between politics in poll-bound Goa and the frenzy in a beach bar during ‘happy hours’. The early phase of the election campaign in Goa has been marked by a virtual free-for-all announced by political parties, including the AAP, BJP and the Trinamool Congress for the state’s voters.

The freebie trend this time round was started by AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal, who has announced three out of the party’s promised five pre-poll guarantees, which includes free power, employment and pilgrimages.

While Kejriwal promised free power to the tune of 300 consumed units for domestic connections, and a job in every home in the coastal state and unemployment doles for the youth in Goa, the Delhi Chief Minister, earlier this week also promised free pilgrimages to the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Ajmer Sharif Dargah and Vellankani for Hindus, Muslims and Christians, respectively.

Kejriwal’s first guarantee of providing 300 units of power free on July 14, triggered ridicule from the ruling BJP, more than a month later Chief Minister Pramod Sawant promised 16,000 litres of water free of cost to the state’s domestic consumers.

The political avalanche of freebies has snowballed since, following Kejriwal’s two other promises, which includes the free pilgrimage package.

Pre-election ‘sponsorship’ for pilgrimages is not a new phenomenon in Goa, with aspiring candidates routinely arranging for such tours to popular religious destinations like Shirdi and Nanij in Maharashtra.

Following Kejriwal’s announcement, Sawant too tried to play up a budgetary scheme announced by him this year. The scheme, which was buried in the details of the voluminous budget announcements, offers free pilgrimages in temples across the state to senior citizens.

The free pilgrimage tour announcements also rekindled a war of words between the two Chief Ministers, who have accused each other of copying innovative schemes launched or announced by their respective governments.

The Trinamool Congress, led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, which is keen to make a splash in the 2022 Goa polls also made a slew of freebies, especially to those involved in the fisheries sector. Banerjee’s key promises include a Rs 4,000 monthly allowance for those working in the sector, increase in the existing fuel subsidy by 2.5 times, etc.

The Congress has however stayed clear of the freebie race so far, with Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat claiming that such assurances are nothing but “pre-poll jumlas”.

This is not the first time that political parties in Goa have tried to floor voters with freebies. The policy worked well in the 2012 state Assembly polls for the BJP, whose election campaign was orchestrated by the late Manohar Parrikar.

The BJP won its first and only simple majority in Goa on the back of a string of promises announced by Parrikar, which included the near abolition of value added tax (VAT) reduction on petrol, which brought the price of petrol in Goa to the lowest among Indian states in 2012.

Parrikar also promised the Griha Aadhar scheme, which provided housewives with financial assistance to combat inflation ahead of the 2012 elections, while also announcing the Ladli Laxmi scheme, with a provision to provide Rs 1 lakh to women who reach a marriageable age.

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