The Congress party has also put its hat in the ongoing freebies debate ring while raising questions on tax reliefs and loan write-offs to the tune of ₹15 lakh crore by the Centre -- likening them with 'Gajak' (jaggery) being offered to those having proximity to the ruling dispensation. The Congress also questioned the Centre on the implementation of schemes like housing for all by 2022, while stressing there is a need to free the country from the culture of false political promises.

Later, in what could be seen as the deepening of the spat between the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Centre, the former responded to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's comment that the Delhi CM is giving a perverse twist to the freebies debate.

In a press conference on the raging freebies debate on Friday, Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said: “When will the prime minister hold a discussion on the bank loan write-offs to the tune of ₹10 lakh crore in the last five years? Why is the government silent on this “free gajak” culture? One may argue that loan write-off and loan waiver are different. But the Central government itself told Parliament that out of ₹9.92 lakh crore written-off in the last five years, ₹7.72 lakh crore is the share of the public sector banks. The government has shared that out of the amount written off, only ₹1.03 lakh crore has been recovered. That means the PSBs have recovered 14% of the amount written off in the last five years.”

“If I assume that the recovery will improve to 20% in the coming days, then also the PSBs would not be able to recover ₹5,80,000 crore. The loss belongs to every taxpayer of the country who had been diligently paying taxes like GST and excise duty on petrol. When will this “gajak” in the form of loan write-offs worth ₹5,80,000 crore be discussed?” Vallabh said, adding that if job guarantee schemes like MNREGA are freebies then what about the corporate tax rate done in 2019, which has led to losses worth ₹1,45,000 annually to the government exchequer?

“Corporate tax cut has benefitted only one percent corporate in the country. How can mid-day meal, which feeds twelve crore children be termed as a freebie while there is no discussion about the corporate tax foregone by the Centre. If Revari culture is too bad then when will the Gajak culture end?” Vallabh asked.

The Congress spokesperson also said the country is fed up more with the smoke and mirror culture or in other words -- jhoot ki gathri – culture being practised by the ruling BJP. “After two days from now, we will be celebrating 75 years of independence. We would like to remind the Modi government of the promises made for the year 2022. Housing for all, doubling of farmers’ income, bullet train, the promises just go on and on,” Vallabh said.

Meanwhile, responding to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's comment that the Delhi CM is giving a perverse twist to the freebies debate, Delhi finance minister Manish Sisodia bashed the Centre blaming it on “dostvaad” model of governance.

“Two models of governance have clearly emerged. One is people in power benefitting their friends and family, in which loans and taxes are waived off and it is then termed as development. In the other model, revenue raised from taxes is being deployed towards developing schools, hospitals, and ensuring quality education, treatment and medicines and providing electricity and other government services. We are essentially investing in the people. Developing economies are strong only because they have invested in the citizens of their nation,” said Sisodia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month stoked the freebies debate by saying that there is an effort to bring a culture of garnering votes through freebies in the country. The PM’s comment during a public event in Uttar Pradesh was an apparent jibe against the AAP, which is trying to make inroads into upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat. AAP has since then upped the ante against PM Modi's remarks.

Kejriwal on Thursday slammed the central government's handling of the economy while raising concerns on reduction in states' share of taxes and pruning of the MNREGA allocation among others.

In a televised statement, Kejriwal said, "Centre collects taxes, including ₹3.5 lakh crore per annum on petrol, diesel. But it is against free education and healthcare. Why is it that the centre is citing a lack of funds for paying pensions to soldiers? Something seems wrong with the central government's finances." The FM responded to Kejriwal saying that the Delhi CM is giving a perverse twist to the entire debate on the freebies.

Follow us on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.