Voters Must Be Sensitized

Making attractive promises just before elections has become a common practice in Indian politics.

But political parties and candidates do not stop at just promises that have to be fulfilled from the public treasury because perhaps those promises are not enough to win the elections.

A huge amount of money is spent in election campaigns and efforts are made to woo voters.

As Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman Nitin Gupta also said on Wednesday, this time much more money has been seized in poll-bound states than in previous elections.

For example, cash worth more than Rs 1,000 crore was reportedly seized in Rajasthan this year.

Given the regular workload of the tax department and systemic constraints, it would be fair to argue that this could be a small part of a much larger amount.

The use of money power is not limited to one state or another. In response to a PIL in the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India had filed an affidavit saying that it is ‘deeply concerned about the increasing use of money power in elections.’ 

It also said that effective arrangements have been made to monitor election expenditure.

However, there is a lot of evidence and there are also reports which suggest that the use of money power is increasing.

This trend is disturbing and has not only given rise to many questions related to elections but has also put a question mark on the entire system.

First of all, where did all this unaccounted money come from? This is clearly part of the unaccounted money generated by the system, raised through political patronage to influence the political process.

The cash in circulation has exceeded the pre-demonetisation level. Whether funding comes from candidates or their supporters, the intent is to gain political power by taking advantage of the system.

In such circumstances, the political system may not be able to work impartially in the interest of the society.

Second , how is this unaccounted money used? It may partly be used to fund election campaigns as the limit set by the Election Commission appears inadequate.

Going by past reports, it can also be used to influence voters by giving them cash or goods, which in a way disrupts the political process.

Third , does the power of money affect the democratic process? As we see in the market, high resistance to entry limits competition and leads to poor results.

In such a situation, it is very difficult for newcomers to compete in Indian politics and this has led to centralization of power at various levels.

This is also one of the reasons why there are so many political families in India. Most serious candidates these days are millionaires.

Of course, we all know about some of these problems but our society has not been able to do anything special about them.

Theoretically speaking, it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to conduct free and fair elections. Excessive use of the power of money does not allow an equal fight.

The Election Commission is working in this direction but it will have to take more steps.

For this, it will have to make more effective use of the existing bureaucracy and take action against those who violate the rules.

There is a need to reform the system related to election funding as it leads to aggravation of many other problems in the system.

But this will also require the support of the legislature which may not be available.

The only option left for the Election Commission is to increase surveillance and take action if necessary. It can also run a campaign to sensitize the voters.

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