Cash casts its shadow over polls
Madabhushi Sridhar: Cash Casts its Shadow Over Polls. It is strange that corruption was not at all an issue in the current elections; may be because it is difficult to say who is not corrupt, including the voters!
It is strange that corruption was not at all an issue in the current elections; may be because it is difficult to say who is not corrupt, including the voters!
But every political party leader talked about corruption of the other party. Recent scams were highlights of all the public speeches. Besides some filthy abuses, rest of the talk was about “the nation being looted by ...” Almost each political leader accused the other for ‘selling’ tickets i.e., ‘B’ Forms to the candidates. It was also whispered and strongly alleged in internal discussions that those who could influence ‘high command’ were on high demand and made lots of money in enabling alliances between two political parties and disabling them in some. From the synchronisation of political wave length, Congress and TRS who were for creating Telangana should have aligned in Telangana and BJP could not have shook hands with TDP as they stood on extreme ends so far as division of AP was concerned. Why it happened? What influenced? New political parties appeared on the eve polls and stormed with abuses, why? For a matinee idol it was more a call sheet than a campaign trail.
Hundreds of crores of rupees in cash was caught while being transported. No one knows how much was transferred by hawala and other invisible means. The VVIP campaigners were busy with election tours, though most of them did not address public meetings! What were they doing? Why did they come? Whether they used their VVIP immunity cover to hide anything? The sacred Dhanalakshmi was stuffed in bonnets, by the side of engine, under carpets, etc. Some of stashed cash was destroyed in fire or lifted by onlookers when left out by those who fled the scene for fear of prosecution and publicity.
The bribery percolated through top leaders, to distributors, to workers and ultimately to voters. The families and groups demanded a particular rate for favourably voting. While some stinking rich candidates were enthusiastic to distribute the cash, others who are in the middle range found it difficult to cope up with voters’ demand for specific price and ran into debts. Most strikingly the educated have put their votes to auction and bargained to get better price. They shocked some MPs who really worked for people’s development, helped certain sections and stood by a cause, when those who received such helps turned around to demand money. An educated voter bargained with an MP candidate in Telangana; “We are four in our family, we are interested in your party and you in particular. So we came to you. You know the prevailing rate. Rs 1000 per vote, we will adjust, though other party is ready to pay more, we do not give to them...” The price varies with the fierceness of competition, the rate offered by other candidate and the richness of the candidate.
Educated vote for sale
The most revealing factor is the education did not add any value to the voter, but increased the price like dowry rate of a post graduate groom. Most of the educated voters preferred selling off their votes. It is proved with postal ballots. The NGOs posted to perform election duties have applied for postal ballots and got them. Their concern for democracy is great. But the truth is different. Those teachers, gazetted officers and engineers etc. have put those ballots before the ‘candidates’ for sale and secured highest price possible. There were officers who walked away with 40 to 60 thousand rupees for their ten votes (both for MP and MLA). Candidate too has a justification. He says: we are sure that these votes will poll for us because they handed over the ballots to them. We only mark them and post. Secrecy of vote has gone with winds. Such ‘facility’ is not available for other ballots. The candidates are at risk as the educated or uneducated voter could change his mind at any moment. An MP candidate agent said, “But you know, rural voter is more credible.” It is open secret that secrecy of voting is no more a secret.
After the postal voters, it was group voters who demanded substantial money to vote en masse. It was pathetic that contestants could not dare to come back home even at late night for fear of women groups and self-help groups demanding huge amount of money for their bulk votes. However they could not escape. “If you also demand like this where we go, sister...” pleaded a candidate. Answer was immediate: ‘Anna, should women not ask money, because they are female? We surely vote you unlike male members who get influenced by liquor or false promises.” The candidate has to keep quiet and pay.
A senior leader of a prominent political party told me: “please do not think otherwise, let me tell you that these so-called educated voters are highly corrupt, more than any body...the illiterate were honest and decisive”.
There are MPs who pledged everything and ran into debts worth crores to meet their rivals in battle for ballot. Rich candidates with undisclosed money were more comfortable. They are neither tense nor worried to get the rates reduced.
Less said is better about media (most of them, if not all) and its rate for paid news and paid bulletins on TV screen. Broadsheet is full of ads in camouflage of news or constituency analysis. The package deals have assumed the shape of compulsions rather than consensual contracts. At times there was no bargain at all. ‘They fixed the rates and hence no bargain please...’ was the curt reply to politicians from journalists. Some MPs has succeeded to influence Managing Editors for rebates in package deals. Rich MP candidate was taxed with Rs 25 lakh minimum while journalists were sympathetic with some who were given a special price of Rs 20 lakh or 15 lakh. The reciprocal benefit is regular favourable appraisal of poll situation or at least there will be no adverse publicity. Though not a blackmail, it was a thorough exploitation of fear of losing that enriched the media organisations, whether organised or individually operated. Somewhere in AP journalists got brand new Maruthi Swift cars for their objective performance of duties.
The question is who is corrupt, or who is not? Whether Representation of People’s Act, the Constitution of India, moral (model) code of conduct, the Election Commission of India or any other force under sky can prevent influence of money over the voters?
(Professor Madabhushi Sridhar can be reached email@example.com)