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Fun on Friday: An Epic Campaign Promise

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Politicians promise lots of stuff. Delivering on those promises – that’s a different matter. But when it comes to pledging to do this or that, politicians are masters.

Now, most of the time they keep things pretty vague. After all, you don’t want to commit to anything quantifiable. If you did that, voters could actually hold you accountable. So they promise things like, “I’ll create jobs,” or “I’ll improve our infrastructure.” At the end of the day, you have no idea whether they actually did that or not. (Odds are, they didn’t.)

But one political party in India decided that when it comes to campaign promises, it’s “go big or go home.” So, it’s going big!

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised to give 80,000 brides $530 worth of gold.

Yes. You read that right. The party is going to give away gold. Real gold.

According to Reuters, the BJP faces a tough reelection campaign in the northeastern state of Assam. So, it plans to give away gold to – shall we say – grease the political wheels.

“A customary ritual which has been part of Assamese society for centuries is to gift a set of gold ornaments to one’s daughter as a blessing as she leaves her father’s home to start a new life,” Assam’s finance minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

So, the government is going to play the role of “daddy.” Quite literally.

Sarma said the state has allocated 3 billion rupees ($42 million) for the next fiscal year, from April 1, for the gold program. The state will buy the gold from the Reserve Bank of India and then distribute it directly to the brides. According to Reuters, “The program would be limited to two women from each family with an income of less than 500,000 rupees ($7,000) a year. Each bride would get a ‘tola,’ or 11.66 grams, of gold.”

“I feel that it’s my solemn responsibility to stand with those fathers who cannot afford to gift a set of gold ornaments,” Sarma said.

What a guy, right?

So, I’m not sure whether to call this “vote-buying” or “bribery.” But, you know, semantics.

The opposition accused the BJP of making “fake promises” to win votes.

I’m not sure that’s really the right word. The promise is definitely real. The question is will they follow through?

The crazy thing is that this is perfectly legal. In India, political parties can hand out goodies in the hope that it will entice people to vote for its candidates. Of course, the party in power has just a just a teeny, weeny slight advantage. It gets to dip into the taxpayers’ pockets to fund its payola.

But, there are some limits. Under the election law, the gift-giving has to stop once an election date is set. After all, we wouldn’t want to create an opportunity for corruption to creep into the process.

The BJP isn’t just giving away gold. Sarma said the state would also give electric bikes to girls who score at least 60% in school-leaving exams, for getting to places of higher studies.

Again, what a guy, right?

But the gold is really the big deal.

Indians traditionally have a strong affinity for gold. While you may think of gold as a luxury item, many Indians view it as a necessity. In the Asian nation, buying gold is not just for the rich. In fact, a recent survey shows that possessing the yellow metal is a universal phenomenon across all income classes in India.

The yellow metal is interwoven into the country’s marriage ceremonies and cultural rites. Indians also value gold as a store of wealth, especially in poor rural regions. Two-thirds of India’s gold demand comes from these areas, where the vast majority of people live outside the official tax system. This explains why even the poor buy gold in India.

Well, if you are a poor girl about to get married in Assam, daddy may not have to buy that gold at all! There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But there is free gold. And electric bikes. At least in India. And by free, I mean paid for by somebody else. What a deal, right?

Well, you won’t get free gold at SchiffGold. But you will get the best prices on gold and silver. Call 1-888-GOLD-160 to talk to a SchiffGold precious metals specialist today. (Sorry, no electric bikes come as part of this deal. But you don’t have to vote for us either.)

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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