The New Indian Express

When Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, Imran Masood, went berserk in an election rally, threatening to cut BJP’s PM nominee Narendra Modi into pieces, it was expected of the ruling party at the Centre that it would express its outrage by replacing Masood with another candidate. But shockingly, no such action was taken. The Samajwadi Party regime that is in the saddle in Uttar Pradesh had him arrested but only for a few days before Masood sauntered out of jail on bail, totally unmoved. The Election Commission (EC) on its part pleaded helplessness on the pretext that the threat was delivered before the model code of conduct came into force.

There have been many barbs and below-the-belt hits by many other leaders, but nothing shocks now because of the depths to which election rhetoric has stooped.

Time was when political heavyweights used to cross swords in Parliament and state Assemblies and fraternise at evening parties, without betraying rancour. Today, there are numerous examples of sworn enmity between rival leaders. Be it Karunanidhi versus Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, or Mulayam Singh Yadav versus Mayawati in Utttar Pradesh, or Modi versus Nitish Kumar in Bihar, the bad blood between them is to be seen to be believed.

While we gloat over the fact that EC has been conducting largely peaceful elections and that booth capturing is a thing of the past, criminality among politicians has touched endemic proportions. Bribery of voters is rampant and now extends to not only cash but even expensive gifts.

To safeguard against violence breaking out during elections, the election process is staggered at huge cost to the exchequer. Recent estimates by EC put the cost of a General Election at a whopping `3,500 crore—about 150 per cent more than the amount spent for the 2009 polls (`1,400 crore). This does not include the expenses incurred for security and the amount political parties will spend.

According to the Centre for Media Studies, Indian politicians will spend as much as $4.9 billion during the electoral contest, making it the second most expensive of all times, behind only to the 2012 US presidential campaign in which $7 billion was spent.

India’s electoral rules only allow candidates to spend $114,000 to contest parliamentary seats. With 543 seats available in the Lower House, the total spent should amount to just below $62 million. But the actual costs of fighting an election are much higher.

So strongly has criminality taken over that of the 280 candidates whose names were announced by Congress and BJP till March 13, as many as 84 have declared criminal cases against them, even as 36 among them are facing serious criminal charges like murder and kidnapping.

The report has been prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch and is based on analysis of the background details of 280 candidates whose affidavits were available from Assembly or Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections in the past.

Out of 165 Congress candidates analysed, 44 (27 per cent) had declared criminal cases in their previous election affidavit. The BJP had 40 out of 115 candidates (35 per cent) with criminal cases, the report stated.

It’s not muscle power alone that holds sway. Money power is also in full flow, making it virtually impossible for anybody but the richest to contest and win elections.

In state after state that ADR has analysed in the course of a study, crorepatis abound among candidates of major parties. For those with modest means, national elections are beyond reach. The ills in our style and substance of electoral politics leave little scope for celebration. There is indeed much to introspect about. 

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method