Recently, Prime Minister Modi has taken to criticising political parties that indulge in what he called “revdi culture”. Revdis are sweets, often distributed as alms. In fact, there is a Hindi idiom that says “andha baante revdi, apne apnon ko de”, that is, a sightless person will distribute revdis only to his near and dear ones.
If you look back at the past eight years, Modi himself has been the biggest exponent of this revdi culture. And, because he is the Prime Minister, his revdi distribution is no small matter – it is gigantic in size. The enormous financial and political power that the Central government wields has been put into the service of giving out revdis to various sections of society. This takes various forms, depending on who is the target.
Revdis to Corporate Sector
In some cases, the largesse take the form of tax cuts, concessions, rebates and exemptions to the corporate sections. This is pure gift giving, with the rather limp explanation that these “wealth creators” (as Modi calls the super rich) need help from the government. Here are a few dramatic and well-known examples;
• Corporate Tax Cut: In 2019, Modi Sarkar gave a huge gift to the corporate sector by cutting the corporate tax rate from 30% to 22% (35% to 26% if surcharges etc included). In effect this meant that the government gave a gift of Rs.1.45 lakh crore to the corporate sector. The logic that this would lead to more investment and hence more jobs has proved to be untrue – the jobs situation continued to worsen, investment too remained sketchy.
• Other Tax Concessions to Corporates: Between 2014-15 and 2020-21, Modi Sarkar gave various rebates, concessions and waivers worth Rs.6.15 lakh crore to corporate tax payers, according to Union Budget documents. These are distinct from concessions given to non-corporate entities and individuals, and it does not include revenue foregone due to customs duty rebates.
• Loans Write-off: Since Modi Sarkar came into power eight years ago, Rs 10.72 lakh crore worth of loans have been written off by banks, mostly public sector banks, which act on the directives of the government. This was revealed in an RTI reply to The Indian Express in 2021. Who has benefitted? Most of these loan write offs are for big amounts – over Rs100 crore loans – which means this concession is again benefitting the corporate sector.
• Big Defaulters: In response to an RTI query by a Pune based activist, the Reserve Bank of India revealed that there were 1913 wilful defaulters, who together owed Rs1.46 lakh crore to banks as on June 2020. Of these, there were total 264 wilful defaulters with bad loans of Rs.100 crore and above who owed Rs.1,08,527 crore to banks.
Besides these gifts, Modi Sarkar has been selling off valuable industrial assets and infrastructure to the corporate sector at much discounted prices.
• Between 2014-15 and 2021-22, the government sold off various public sector enterprises (partly or fully) for a whopping Rs.4.86 lakh crore to various private bidders.
• In addition, Modi Sarkar has come up with an even more flagrant sale programme – it is planning to ‘lease’ out Rs.6 lakh crore worth of physical assets like railway lines and stations, telecom system, power transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, roads, bridges, ports etc to private entities. These so called ‘leases’ will run for up to 40 years! In effect, this is outright sale disguised as a lease.
Revdis to Voters
One of the most shameless electoral strategies that the BJP has adopted is of inaugurating or announcing various projects a few months before Assembly elections take place. This has been going on – with increasing brazenness – right since the BJP came to power in 2014. Most recently, before the Uttar Pradesh elections, Modi announced or inaugurated projects worth Rs.1 lakh crore in several instalments during his visits to the state. This process has become a standard operating procedure now and it ends days before the first notification for elections is made by the Election Commission. In this way, violation of the Model Code of Conduct is avoided.
Why do all these projects need to be announced just before the elections? What was the government doing for the preceding five years? The people are deprived of hospitals, roads and highways, educational institutions, and other developmental benefits for five years and then suddenly, Modi and his ministers go on a spree of announcements.
Revdis to BJP Supporters
Another revdi distribution exercise goes on continuously – it is appointing BJP supporters to various posts in universities, research institutes, Boards and Committees of various government bodies, regulatory and statutory bodies, etc. This not only consolidates the BJP’s base among its supporters and rewards those who have been loyal, but it also serves a very important purpose of expanding the RSS-BJP’s ideological influence, especially in higher education institutions. These political appointees are foot soldiers of the RSS-BJP who help expand its organisation and mould policies in favour of the ruling regime. Such political appointments are even extending to government bodies.
Modi and BJP Are Biggest Revdi Distributors
As the above snapshot shows, the fulmination of Modi at revdis given by some Opposition ruled State governments is sheer hypocrisy. If an Opposition party announced reduction in say, electricity or water charges, or other conveniences for suffering people, Modi and his party object at this ‘culture’ and warn youth to beware of such attempts. But if Modi and his ministers or BJP led State Governments do the same then it is “development” and “sabka saath, sabka vikas”!
In fact, there is something more to it than hypocrisy. What Modi and his supporters are objecting to is giving some relief or help from government funds to people. They are against welfare spending. As long as the Modi’s own government spends money (or cuts taxes) that helps big business, its fine because it is “development”. Spending for easing the suffering of people is anathema to them. This is the fundamental thinking that Modi and BJP/RSS are wedded to.
In stark contrast to the opportunism of Modi, the Left believes that the people have a right to resources. Using national resources for welfare of the people is a duty of the government. The Constitution, in Art. 38 (1), spells it out in clear terms: “The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life”. Similarly, Art.38(2) directs the State to “minimise inequalities of income” and “eliminate inequalities of status, facilities and opportunities”. By persisting with its policies, Modi and the BJP governments are going against the very spirit of the Constitution. But then, these are the pitfalls of upholding the discredited neoliberal dogma and a regressive social outlook.