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Free-for-all on Freebies: Centre Counters Kejriwal, Sitharaman Asks Him to Debate after 'Perverse Twist'

By: Pallavi Ghosh

CNN-News18

Last Updated: August 11, 2022, 23:17 IST

New Delhi, India

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Delhi chief minister has given a perverse twist to the debate on freebies. (File pic: PTI)

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Delhi chief minister has given a perverse twist to the debate on freebies. (File pic: PTI)

Central government sources told News18 that the objection is to the fact that many parties have promised free gold, cookers, etc, while they don’t have the funds

It’s a free-for-all between the BJP and AAP over the freebie issue. The Centre has come out with a point-by-point rebuttal to the comments and allegations by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on the matter.

Government sources told News18, “Arvind Kejriwal is deliberately framing the argument in a manner that is wrong. Nobody is saying that giving free benefits to the poor is wrong. But it is also wrong to classify the loan write-offs as being freebies, or to say that the corporate tax rate cut was designed to benefit the corporates.”

In fact, the Centre cites an example to make the point that it gave free food over and above the subsidised food provided under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Central government sources said the objection is to the fact that many parties have promised free gold, cookers, etc, while they don’t have the funds. And they have not bothered to have long-term economic welfare or corrective steps to ensure more employment, or improve ease of doing business, they added.

For example, while the Punjab government promised money in the bank accounts of women, the chief minister came to Delhi, appealing to the Prime Minister to release Rs 1 lakh crore as urgent funds . “This makes it clear that they don’t have the money. So why promise a freebie?” said the sources.

But the Aam Aadmi Party disagrees, saying the state’s funds have depleted and it’s the right of the Punjab governments to ask for money from the Centre. More importantly, it says, the BJP too has made many poll promises that never got fulfilled.

The central government sources have a response to this. “There is no justification for political parties offering freebies that the government’s exchequer cannot afford and will eventually lead to bankruptcy of the state. When they promise free electricity, water, or other freebies, they are merely borrowing from future generations to reward present ones,” they said.

On the issue of GST on packaged items there has been many a slugfest with even the Congress hitting the streets. But central government sources say it’s hypocrisy as none of the finance ministers of opposition-ruled states objected to it on record.

The fight over freebies may have reached the court, but both sides are unlikely to let up on the attacks on each other. In fact the government has now challenged the Delhi CM to a debate.

“Delhi chief minister has given a perverse twist to the debate on freebies. Health and education have never been called freebies. No Indian government has ever denied them. So classifying education and health as freebies, Kerjiwal is trying to bring in a sense of worry and fear in the minds of the poor. There should be a genuine debate on this matter,” said union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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first published:August 11, 2022, 22:44 IST
last updated:August 11, 2022, 23:17 IST