It's an open secret that elections are an expensive affair in India as parties accuse each other of using their "money power" to win polls. Often villagers and the urban poor too confess to having received cash and liquor as bribes by parties trying to buy their vote.
Not surprisingly, while the 2016 US elections reportedly cost 6.5 billion dollars, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the country reportedly involved an expenditure of five billion dollars and the 2019 polls are said to be the most expensive elections ever to be held in a democratic country.
Going by the ceiling set by the Election Commission of India, a candidate contesting the Lok Sabha poll can spend between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 70 lakh and must declare the amount spent within 30 days of the completion of the polls. The time given is within 90 days of the completion of the elections for registered parties.
Observes activist, Tara Krishnaswamy, “ Going by their own affidavits, 83 per cent of the MLAs and MPs are crorepatis. It is apparent that it is the disproportionately rich who can contest and win. Whatever the EC is doing, the data makes it clear that elections are not free and fair in the country.”
Freedom fighter, H S Doreswamy, says that seeing the expenditure involved, a common man willing to work for the upliftment of society, is bound to stay away from elections. "At a time when the Election Commission is discussing ways to make elections simpler and easier to hold, the money that is spent on them makes it hard for commoners to contest," he rues.
Mr Doreswamy recalls a speech of veteran BJP leader, L K Advani that he gave years ago on electoral reforms. "When we were locked up in prison during the Emergency in 1975, Mr Advani gave a wonderful speech about electoral reforms. He went on to become the home minister too, but chose to keep mum over the reforms he had talked about.It's not just him. All parties are in the same boat. They all want crores to fight elections and are willing to accept money for them,” he notes, sadly pointing out that those who give the money don’t do so without selfish reason either.
“When their party or candidate wins they get favours in return like a contract or license. So it's a good investment for them,” he regrets. Batting for a more powerful Election Commission and greater accountability among political parties, Mr Doreswamy says once when he went up to the EC to ask about the gifts and money seized during elections, he got the most unexpected response.
"When I contacted the EC, they said the seized material was with the Superintendents of Police, but when I contacted the SPs they maintained there no seizures at all! This should not be allowed anymore. The EC should be asked to explain what was seized, how much and the action taken against the guilty,” he insists.
Also, in his view, elections should be held within one week of announcing them to curb the corruption involved." This way there will hardly be any scope for spending. It is quite impossible otherwise for the commission to keep track of the money spent on rallies, campaigns, advertisements and social media,” he says.
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