Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
Outlook.com
elections: poll expenses

The Truth Is Out There

The state elections rolled out smoothly, but it’s money power which ruled on the ground

The Truth Is Out There
P. Lashkari
The Truth Is Out There
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

As we celebrate the smooth working of a massive electoral exercise—simplistically dubbed by many as the semi-final to the greatest show on earth, General Elections 2014—a realisation has dawned that the role of ‘money power’ is reaching alarming proportions. Sure, elections are more fool-proof today than in the past, and most (rightly) salute the EC for managing affairs smoothly. But are our elections free from money and brute power? One doesn’t have to dig too far; shocking reports from the ground show just how distorted the just-concluded state ele­ct­ions were. Consider this:

  • Political parties in Madhya Pradesh devised ingenious methods to work around the Election Commission’s checks. Congress worker Munim Diwedi says contestants deposited money with various shopkeepers, petrol pump owners and hoteliers directly to oblige voters who went to them with a slip with the candidate’s signature. Another political leader revealed that the ‘108’ ambulances were used to carry liquor and money in some constituencies since they were not checked by the police.
  • Liquor sales in Chhattisgarh shot up by 20 per cent in the last three months, according to state beverages corporation MD R.S. Vishwakarma. The connection is evident—a doctor, posting comments on a social networking site, mentioned that many drunk people had shown up at his clinic a day after voting and offered payment in crisp Rs 1,000 notes.
  • In a prominent South Delhi assembly constituency, a national party candidate approached local businessmen and “politely demanded” Rs 10 lakh from the smaller ones and anything above Rs 20 lakh from the bigger entities. Says a businessman on condition of anonymity, “I stay in the same locality as the candidate and I paid because I have to survive here and do business.”

Actually, it seems everyone loves a good election, especially traders, brokers and transporters. Prices of both goods and services go up. Taxis disappear from the streets. Liquor flows and sale of subscriber identity modules (SIMs) move northward as political parties buy them in bulk. Indeed, thousands of  people thrive in election season. How much the EC spent in conducting the recent assembly elections in five states is not yet known. As an indicator, the EC spent Rs 300 crore for the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2012—by most estimates, political parties and candidates together spent at least ten times that amount.


The eyes above Parties now provide live feed of rallies to TV channels. Who pays for it?. (Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari)

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