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Baiting Voters

Posted by Shreyans Jain Wednesday, 10 July 2013 0 comments

Exemplary display of money and muscle power is the chief characteristic of elections in India, however free and fair they may be. While some electorate stoop to undignified levels to exploit the cult of ethnicity and incite communal passions, many others tend to woo the voters by offering them freebies prior to the elections. It is a common perception among some politicians that voters can be encouraged to vote in their favour on the basis of material gratification rather than larger political and ideological issues. The Election Commission has often issued guidelines asking the political parties to limit the expenditure on their election propaganda; it has often failed to crack the whip on the offenders. As a result, distribution of largesse in the form of colour TVs, laptops, mixer-grinders, gold, liquor and even cash to the ‘eligible’ and ‘deserving’ voters has become a rampant practice in India. It is a scathing attack on the true spirit of democracy because these offerings induce the voters to vote in favour of the candidate of a particular political party, thereby affecting the level-playing field between the candidates, which in turn disrupts a free and fair election. It is an attack on the dignity of voters who are seen merely as votes and who can be tamed to dance to the tune of a particular electorate by offering such baits. A sharp change in the electoral dynamics of several states bear a testimony to the effect strategic distribution of money has had on election results.

It is imperative for the citizens to realise that such strategic distribution of freebies is a sheer wastage of the taxpayer’s money. Large sums of public money is spent on purchasing these freebies that are ‘gifted’ to individuals belonging to certain castes or sections of society and have their names on the electoral roll. It is indeed a corrupt practice that is leading to widespread resentment among the educated middle class. On the other hand, the beneficiaries feel too overwhelmed at the generosity of these politicians that they hail them as the true well-wishers, their supreme saviours and even incarnation of God! They, however, fail to see through the nefarious designs behind such unscrupulous practice. They fail to realise the fact that wastage of public money to provide short term monetary benefits will adversely affect the economic growth in the long run. They fail to understand that why their elected representatives often complain of dearth of funds for public welfare and development in the aftermath of elections even when a huge budget is sanctioned to their governments from the Centre. Perhaps they are hardly left with any money when a chunk of it is spent to appease the disgruntled voters and even a greater chunk of it is siphoned off!

The need of the hour is to shun obnoxious notions that voters have a legitimate share in the booty that has been garnered by burning a hole in their own pockets. As observed by the Supreme Court, freebies shake the root of free and fair elections; therefore, it is incumbent on the Election Commission to play a proactive role in strengthening the provisions of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act. It should formulate guidelines for manifesto to be included in the Moral Code of Conduct in order to ensure sound and effective future governance. The media should assist in discouraging this corrupt practice and enlighten the citizens of the benefits they stand to lose in the long run by accepting largesse at the time of elections. Voters ought to think prudently and rely on their own wisdom and be aware of their fundamental rights before succumbing to these baits.


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