Role of money power continues to grow in polls

By Brij Bhardwaj. Dated: 1/8/2018 11:22:50 AM

Elections in India are increasingly becoming a rich man's game and every political party is making a compromise with this ground reality. Every politician condemns the role of money in polls but has to compromise with this reality when contesting the polls. This is true in case of poll of local bodies, State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha. The limits on expenditure fixed by the Election Commission have no link with reality.
Besides legitimate expenditure on propaganda material, transport, expense on volunteers and organising public meetings, candidates are also guilty of inducing the voters by providing them liquor and in many cases by bribing them with money. How widespread this practice is can be judged from the fact that in every constituency large sums of money are seized by authorities which is to be used for bribing the voters.
To meet the growing expense on polls, the political parties raise money from unknown sources but show them under the limit in books as fixed by the Election Commission. It is no secret that donations by cheques or through legitimate sources is only a small part of the total money raised by political parties as most of it is in cash which is black money. To get donations many candidates are selected because of their deep pockets not only to finance their own campaign but also to help other candidates who lack resources.
One of the biggest loophole is that there is no ceiling on expenses on elections by political parties. The poll expenses have grown considerably in the last few years with cash and other forms of gifts becoming common. Every political party distributes tickets keeping in mind the capacity of candidates to spend on election campaign. The expenses on even local bodies and panchayats now run into lakhs while in case of Assembly polls and poll to Lok Sabha several crores is the norm.
If the list of candidates is scrutinised, one finds that majority of them declare assets in crores and after getting elected the assets grow considerably. In recent times even Aam Admi party which came to power on the strength of their campaign against corruption chose candidates for Rajya Sabha with deep pockets including a candidate who in the earlier poll was declared as the richest candidate in the poll. The result is that no serious attempt is being made to check election expenses in which black money plays a big role.
It is no secret that party in power gets maximum donations officially and under the table, but even other parties are also patronised as donations are given to them to ensure that in case the political fortunes change traders and business men do not suffer. Favours in terms of contracts, licences are a norm. In recent times defence contracts have become a source of raising money by party in power. It is no secret that the middle men change with every change of party in power.
The result is that defence forces are denied urgent equipment as process of selection takes years and in the meantime many items become more expensive while many become obsolete. India is one of the major importer of defence equipment in the world and large number of firms have been blacklisted because of corrupt practices. It has, however, not changed the scenario almost every deal becomes controversial.
It is accepted by all political parties that election expenses is the main cause for corruption and black money but no agreement has been reached to check the same. Some have suggested that Government should finance elections but no consensus has been possible so far. In the meantime political parties continue to raise money through dubious means to meet the poll expenses. One can with certainty say that no member of Lok Sabha could claim that he has won the election while keeping his expenses within the limits prescribed by Election Commission.
As such you find money bags contesting poll on behalf of political parties advocating the cause of poor. Even advocates are favourite of political parties as their services are required by them for fighting cases in Courts. As things stand at present there is no prospect of use of money power being curtailed to win elections, though lip service is paid by all to curb the same.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)



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