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Ration for Gujarat polls: AAP’s Sanjay Singh on Central scheme extension

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh has alleged that the three-month extension for the Centre’s free ration scheme is being given with an eye on the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. “When the election is over, free ration is also over, as we saw in Uttar Pradesh,” he told in an exclusive interview.

The Central government has extended the free ration scheme for three more months, which will cost the country another ₹ 44,000 crore.

“Today’s Cabinet decision to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana will benefit crores of people across India and ensure support during this festive season,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

Mr Singh attacked the Centre over the issue, citing what the BJP has termed “free rewari”. The BJP alleges that opposition parties like AAP distributes freebies to win elections, laying a huge financial burden on the state coffers. The practice of distributing freebies has been challenged in court as well.

“On the one hand you say there should be no freebies, on the other, you extend your free ration ahead of Gujarat elections… if your intentions are pure, why extend it for three months, why not one year? Everyone can see through this,” Mr Singh said.

AAP and the BJP have been at loggerheads in Gujarat, where elections are due by the end of this year. With AAP promising to extend its free power and water scheme to the state, the BJP has scaled up its battle on “rewari culture”.

“In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has been giving free electricity. He has not withdrawn it till now,” Sanjay Singh said, referring to the scheme that has been running since AAP started ruling the national capital in 2014.

Free ration in Uttar Pradesh has been withdrawn after the Yogi Adityanath government won a second term, he alleged.

Asked about the need for a clear definition of freebies, Mr Singh said: “Education, health, power and water — these are basic need for any human being. These should be available at a minimum price or made tax free. It should not be so that a person cannot send his children to school because he has no money; or get no healthcare because he cannot pay for it; that his house should be dark and there will be no clean drinking water”.

Questioning the term “rewari” for these basic needs, Mr Singh pointed to the tax cuts being given to industrialists.

“They wrote off the loans worth ₹ 10 lakh crore for some industrialists. What do you say to that? Corporate taxes were slashed, bringing them down from 30 per cent to 22 per cent, resulting in a loss of ₹ 2.5 lakh crore. What about that? Since these reach only a few industrialist friends, no one says anything,” he added.