Chandigarh, November 16
The stage is set for the elections to the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly and 70 seats of the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly. While Madhya Pradesh will vote in a single phase on November 17, voting in 20 seats of Chhattisgarh took place on November 7 in the first phase. Rajasthan, meanwhile, will poll on November 25 to elect new members to the 200-member assembly.
The ‘revdi culture’
Attacking the promise of free goods or facilities by political parties ahead of elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had termed the practice “revdi culture”.
Speaking at the ‘griha pravesh’ ceremony for beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) scheme in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district in October 2022, Modi noted that a large section of society had resolved to free the country of the ‘revdi’ (freebies) culture. “Thousands of taxpayers write to me and I am happy that a major section of the country is gearing up to free the country of the ‘revdi’ culture,” he was quoted as saying.
He used the term on other occasions as well.
But the last time Modi attacked his opponents using the ‘revdi’ culture was perhaps in April, ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections which the Congress won hands down. He slammed the “guarantees” given by the Congress ahead of the Karnataka polls as “revdi culture” that will “submerge the state in debt”.
“A country cannot be run like this taking short cuts. ‘Revdi’ culture is essentially eating away the resources of future generations. The BJP thinks for the next 25 years and doesn’t take shortcuts,” the PM was quoted as saying at an event addressing party workers from Karnataka online.
Karnataka changed it all
The “freebies” announced by the Congress in Karnataka ahead of the elections, especially for women, are believed to have played a major role in the party’s convincing victory.
Sources say the defeat in Karnataka set alarm bells ringing in the BJP.
While Madhya Pradesh leaders also urged the central leadership and the Sangh to intervene and put the house in order, observers say Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘Ladli Behna’ scheme, which he called a “life changer” for women, also gave the BJP a fighting chance against a visibly resurgent Congress.
Taking a leaf out of the Congress’ success story in Karnataka, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh went all out to woo the electorate using the oldest methodology in electoral politics—offering ‘freebies’ to voters—even though PM Modi’s views on ‘revdis’ were well-known.
“To counter high anti-incumbency and factionalism in the ‘garh’ of BJP’s ideological fountainhead RSS, the party decided to intensify outreach along with pro-people policies. The state government’s ‘Ladli Behna Yojana’ proved to be a turnaround for the party struggling against Congress which has also promised cash for women, subsidised LPG cylinder, and other benefits if it comes to power,” say observers.
Wooing women voters
Women account for almost half of the electorate and according to some reports they even outnumber male voters in three of the five poll-bound states—Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
Parties, including BJP, Congress and BRS, have left no stone unturned in these elections to woo the section which will also play a key role in determining the outcome of the 2024 general election.
The manifestoes of all the parties have kept women electors in the centre, promising gas connection subsidies, extra cash handouts and other benefits.
Welfarism or ‘revdi’
Whether welfarism or ‘revdi’, the debate is on.
According to the Dictionary.com, welfarism is the “set of attitudes and policies characterising or tending towards the establishment of a welfare state” and welfare state is “a state in which the welfare of the people in such matters as social security, health and education, housing, and working conditions is the responsibility of the government”.
Responding to a PIL alleging that irrational cash doles announced by chief ministers of poll-bound states were pushing these states into financial crises earlier this year, the Supreme Court said it could not control political parties from making all kinds of election-eve promises. “Before elections, all kinds of promises are made. We can’t control it,” a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud was quoted as saying following the PIL on the cash doles promised by Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.