AIADMK, DMK defend freebies, PMK, DMDK opposed

Chennai, Aug 12 (IANS) Defending freebies, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa said the Supreme Court's observation in the freebies case was not "appropriate to a large extent" as her AIADMK and rival DMK supported the practice while the PMK and DMDK opposed it.

She said it is only the people who should decide on the practicability of implementing poll promises and authorities like Election Commission should not be allowed to decide on such matters.

Replying to the poll panel's letter dated Aug 2, Jayalalithaa, in her letter written on Aug 10, the text of which was released to the media here Monday said: "In a democracy, political parties should be given the liberty to formulate their ideology, intention and programmes to be implemented when they come to power."

She said the people are at liberty to choose their representatives and the ideology which they desire.

The apex court in a case filed by city based advocate S.Subramaniam Balaji against freebies by the DMK and the AIADMK governments said: "..that distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree".

The apex court cited the affidavit filed by the Election Commission that the promise of such freebies at government cost disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the electoral process and expressed willingness to implement any directions or decision of the court in this regard.

The apex court had asked the poll panel to frame guidelines for manifestos in consultation with political parties and the latter had called a meeting of various political parties in Delhi to discuss the matter Monday.

Jayalalithaa said such guidelines or restrictions on political parties in respect of their manifestoes amounts to interfering the free and fair election process and also imposing restrictions on political parties on propagating their ideologies.

According to here, framing guidelines and restricting political parties from expressing their wish and vision through manifesto is not appropriate for a dynamic social order.

She also said the political parties should be free to release their manifesto as per their convenience.

Terming it as not apt to term social welfare measures by political parties are freebies, Jayalalithaa said the monetary and material assistance extended by the government through such schemes are necessary in an unequal society like India.

On the other hand, T.R.Baalu the leader of DMK in parliament, citing the poll panel's submission to the apex court, questioned the need for conducting an all party meeting.

According to Baalu, it is not necessary to bring any guidelines to prepare the election manifestos of the political parties over and above the existing "model code of conduct for the guidance of political parties and candidates".

On the other hand, PMK's representative R.K.R.Anantharaman, who attended the meeting, said freebies do not improve the living standards of the poor.

He said to finance the freebies, the Tamil Nadu government was increasing alcohol sales, thus adversely impacting the people's health.

"Last year alone, the sale of liquor and alcohol was to the tune of Rs.23,000 crore in Tamil Nadu. The consumption of liquor and alcohol causes various health hazards," Anantharaman said.

He said in the current fiscal, the Tamil Nadu government has allocated Rs.45,176 crore towards freebies and subsidies.

"As certain subsidies are very essential, most of the subsidies are only making the common man lazy and not hard working. Except those which are given to students, the rest of the subsidies are not going to fetch any returns, as they are not ideal investments," he told the Election Commission.

The DMDK, opposing the freebies, suggested the poll panel seek a review of the judgment before the apex court.

In a submission to the Election Commission, DMDKchief A.Vijayakant also urged it to take action against all political parties which had announced freebies in the recently held assembly elections as per the provisions of Representation of Peoples Act.

The AIADMK government is handing out free laptops, mixers, grinders and other things to the poor; the earlier DMK government in the state gave away free colour television sets.

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