Saturday, March 19, 2011

Play of Money in Tamilnadu Elections

In the Indian Elections, money has always played a role. Obviously, I am not referring to the genuine expenditure incurred by the candidates. Cost of posters and hoardings, expenses for organising public meetings and rallies, money spent for scores of vehicles hired and food for the volunteers and political workers. These are definitely expenses which are justifiable. But the unjustifiable and illegal expenditure namely money paid to the poorer sections of the electorate for voting in favour of a particular candidate has assumed alarming proportions.

Tamilnadu has been a pioneer even in this evil practice. Every election has seen more money flowing by way of bribe. The recently innovated 'Tirumangalam Formula' is an euphemism for buying votes by giving exhorbitant and unprecedented amounts to a large section of people irrespective of their financial status. The 'Scientist' (!) who invented this formula is none other than Alagiri, one of the sons of Karunanidhi, the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. It is an innovation in the sense that money was delivered to the voters of Tirumangalam where a by-election was held, in the early hours of the day and hidden between the pages of morning newspapers. Estimates of cash paid for a vote vary between Rs.500.- and Rs.5000.- There are reliable reports that if a family has 4 votes, it was paid Rs.20000.- That would mean that if there is a deficit of 10000 votes (assuming that money need not be paid for all the votes obtained by a candidate) , an expenditure of Rs.5 crores would be able deliver this number of votes. For a party which has earned thousands of crores through corruption while being in power, spending a total of Rs.500 crores in about 100 assembly constituencies is no big deal.

One genuine question needs to be asked in this context. Is it not imaginable that people accept money but do not necessarily vote for the candidate who bribed them? Observers of the political scene say that a promise is extracted from people who are being paid substantial bribe; the promise is that they will vote for the candidate who bribed them. This promise is demanded in the name of God. Tamilnadu rural folks being very religious and God-fearing, this method works perfectly; not many betray or go back on their promise. While people getting money along with their newspapers in the early mornings have no promises to keep, those voters who are personally handed over bulk amounts ( say Rs.5000.- per vote) for their entire family are asked to promise and they keep their word irrespective of their liking or otherwise for the candidate.

Tamilnadu has been leading the country in many fields and the people of the state are rightly proud of such feats. But it is a pity that the state has started pioneering novel methods of bribing voters. This is one innovation that the state will have to feel ashamed of.

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