Money-driven elections

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

It should not be a matter of discussion that money plays a key role in elections. As we all know by now, money talks, and involvement of cash in elections should not be headline-hitting news. Apart from display of wealth by contesting candidates, cash handouts and distribution of liquor are becoming integral parts of today’s money-driven election campaigns.
Some people may argue that candidates with fat wallets cannot always win elections, but the fact is that money power increases the winnability of a candidate manifold, compared to those with thinner wallets.
The Election Commission (EC) is making all-out efforts to clean up electioneering malpractices. It has put an expenditure limit on candidates – Rs 50-70 lakhs for each Lok Sabha candidate, and Rs 20-28 lakhs for an assembly candidate. However, there is no cap on the amount a political party can spend in an election, or on a candidate.
During the 2014 elections, flying squads and static surveillance teams of the EC had seized more than Rs 4 crore in cash from various parts of the state, which they alleged was meant for distribution during elections. Besides, more than 69,000 litres of liquor, worth Rs 1.22 crore, were also seized.
Concerned over the rampant money culture in elections, a community-based organization of a major tribe of the state recently launched a campaign for ‘money-free’ elections.
The organization says that unethical political practices, like cash-for-vote, ritualistic undertakings, spiritual threats for vote, employment assurance, etc, have been the major challenges in assembly and parliamentary elections in Arunachal Pradesh.
Even Chief Minister Pema Khandu has admitted that money culture in elections exists in the state. He said corruption would fade away automatically if involvement of money in elections could be rooted out. According to Khandu, the state will not be able to find good leader(s) as long as these electioneering malpractices exist.
Arunachal is likely to go for assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The term of the state assembly, as well as the present Lok Sabha, ends in June.
In the previous assembly elections in Arunachal, the Indian National Congress had won 42 out of the 60 seats. In that election, the BJP had won 11, the People’s Party of Arunachal five, and independents two. Gabriel D Wangsu was elected from the Kanubari constituency in the bye-poll conducted following the death of Newlai Tingkhatra.
The government formed in 2014 was marked by political flip-flops, during which the state saw three chief ministers within 10 months, proving the now-popular saying that politics in Arunachal Pradesh is as unpredictable as the earthquakes that strike the region.