Indian politics is fascinating for any onlooker, it’s quite alien to anyone from the west and trying to understand it would take a lifetime. The first thing to know is that being a country of 1.2 billion people, the media likes to segment people in to what are known as ‘vote banks’. For example the muslim minority here are considered a vote bank because they all tend to vote the same way. The people from the lowest castes (they used to be called ‘untouchables’ because it was considered dirty to even touch them, now, in a more enlightened age they are referred to as dalits) will also vote the same way.
There are so many different vote banks here that it’s a tough job for the political parties to appeal to everyone. One way the parties try to win votes is by offering freebies, often under the flimsy guise of ‘welfare schemes’. In Tamil Nadu, in order to sway the election, the two main parties entered in to an almost bidding war with each other on who could give the most
freebies welfare to the poor people. In the previous 2006 election, the DMK party swept to power after announcing it would give away 15 million colour TV’s. In the end a lady called Jayalalithaa won because she said that people would get:
- Free food blender
- Free wet grinder
- Free table fan
- Free ceiling fan
- Free laptop to all Govt. school children
- Free cow
- Free goat
- Free sheep
It’s unclear how many people are eligible for all these
freebies welfare goods, but the BBC reckons that 6.8 million school children alone will be getting free laptops at an estimated cost of $2 billion. In total, $580m will be spent on the free consumer goods and livestock this year alone. Oh, and it’s definitely NOT all a political stunt, Jayalalitha says, despite the fact that all the free goods have her smiling face prominently stuck to the side so that people are in no doubt about who gave them this welfare!
The biggest irony of all this is that in the villages, where most of these poor people live, there is very little electricity, few can afford the electricity and power cuts last several hours each day, or in some cases, for days!