Herald: The magic potion of the Indian election

The magic potion of the Indian election

06 Apr 2019 05:08am IST
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06 Apr 2019 05:08am IST

Any doubts that cash and liquor play a major role during an election campaign can be dismissed by the fact that the authorities in the past weeks, since the election dates were announced and the model code of conduct came into force, have seized cash, liquor and narcotics worth Rs 3.84 crore.

That’s a huge amount, for less than a month. While the model code of conduct came into force on March 10, the notification of the Goa polls was made on March 28, and from that day onwards – in just seven days – the seizures have amounted to Rs 2.08 crore, more than half the total since the announcement of the polls. It does appear that the distribution of cash and liquor just cannot be avoided.

In raids across the State since March 10, teams of the Goa Police and Excise Department officials have discovered stacks of liquor bottles stored without valid licences. It is interesting that the largest seizure of liquor bottles worth Rs 1.5 crore was in Dhargal in Pernem, where the Assembly constituency of Mandrem has a by-poll and the second largest was in Mapusa, where liquor worth Rs 71 lakh was seized, again a constituency that has a by-election. This gives quite a clear indication, even if it doesn’t prove, that candidates increasingly rely on cash and liquor during the campaign, and that despite the strict surveillance of the teams, liquor will be served in the run-up to the polls. 

While liquor may be cheaper in Goa, and so its use quite widespread, the use of spirits during an election campaign is not confined to just this one State. Since the poll body announced the election schedule, across the country cash, liquor and narcotics worth Rs 1,500 crore had been confiscated until a couple of days ago. As the poll dates grow nearer the seizures are expected to increase. This has been the experience of the past, and with the voting process going on till May 19, the seizures across the country could well tally into the tens of thousands.

If alcohol is the magic potion that induces voters, then the distribution of cash is yet another big motivator for the electorate. Along with alcohol bottles, cash too has been seized, though in Goa it has not amounted to a really big amount, but the seizures of currency notes are also an indication that the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has not had any effect in curtailing the use of black money in elections. Since cash too is being seized, the question that arises is from where have the candidates or the parties in the fray managed to get ready cash in hand? Demonetisation was meant to do away with black money, but then here is an example of how it has not succeeded. 

In 2014, the seizures across the country that had been made of cash, liquor and drugs were far bigger than anticipated, indicating that the scale of the problem is not minor, but quite immense. At that time it had been said that the entry of businessmen in the political field had increased the ready cash flow into the electoral system. Five years later the issue still exists, perhaps it has even grown bigger, and it is only the strict vigilance by the monitoring teams of the Election Commission of India that is keeping check on the distribution of cash and alcohol to the voters. 

But while monitoring will play its limited role, it is the voters who should say no to the inducements by the candidates and the parties. Unless this happens, those seeking to get elected will continue with attempts to bribe the electorate to make their entry into the political system.

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