I have seen several Loksabha elections in the past. But none of them excited me so much like the 2014 elections. In almost every constituency there is tough fight between more than two candidates. It is interesting to watch the debates on various TV channels and innovative campaign in the field and through social networks. But I liked the pre-EVM days for just one reason. Watching the updates regarding counting of votes from morning till late night was such good fun during those days of manual ballot papers. Now, within a couple of hours of counting, the results are out and the excitement vanishes in no time.
But what I wanted to say is something else. We have heard enough about supply of rice bags (no one wants it now!), liquor bottles (always in demand), Sarees etc. I hear about a new strategy. Candidates have become financially prudent and wise. Now they don’t want the voters to cheat them after receiving any goodies.
The innovative method adopted by a few persons is this: They give a coupon with a number written on it to the ‘voters’. The people were told that if the candidate wins they can go to particular shops and buy specific goods by producing the above coupon.
I analysed this innovation. The candidates can gain a lot in this scheme:
a) No election official or opposing party can catch the distribution of any valuable before the election
b) There is no expenditure to lure the voter before the election
b) No voter can cheat them by not voting after receiving a valuable
c) The voter, in order to get the gift will vote for that candidate
d) Not only that he will vote, he will tell many others also to vote for that candidate by telling good about him. He knows that only if that particular candidate wins he can get the gift!
e) The shop keepers who have tied up with the candidate to supply the goods after the election will give a good discount to the candidate because of the bulk orders. Since the candidate has won, he will be in a better bargaining position with the shop keepers after the election. They will pay much lesser amount for the goodies.
f) The election expenditure monitoring team would have wound up their stay in the constituency by the time the goodies are purchased and none would be interested to file a complaint at that stage!
g) The secret will be perfectly maintained by the recipients of the coupons from the winning candidate. Even the recipients of coupons from the defeated candidates will quietly throw the coupons to the bushes!
What an idea Sirji!
One man was rushing to his native constituency very far away from the state capital where he worked. I asked him why the urgency. He said, he has been asked by one of the candidates contesting in his native constituency to make two ‘proxies’ file the nominations. He is supposed to identify two persons belonging to the same community of the opponent so that at least a few votes will get diverted! Of course, there is a cost to this!
Bulk booking of railway tickets and cancellation
I am not sure of this. But people say that there is another strategy followed to escape the eyes of the expenditure monitoring teams. Train tickets for upper class berths in long distance trains are booked from one location for a group of persons and those tickets are cancelled in another location to take the refund. A safe transfer of cash to deserving hands! But the time tested strategies of the hawala operators who transact based on a code (the number in a specific currency note) is the system to be busted as crores are ready to be delivered by those agents on behalf of parties and individuals!
Tip of the iceberg
On 5th March the Election Commission of India (ECI) issued the schedule for Loksabha elections 2014. Within a few days it appointed Election Expenditure Observers across the country to keep a close watch on election expenditure of the candidates and to ensure that no inducement is offered to the electors. The election expenses ceiling for candidates has been revised by the Government of India vide Notification dated 28th February, 2014. As per the revised ceilings, the maximum limit of election expenses for a Lok Sabha Constituency is Rs.70.00 lakh per candidate for all States except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim. For these three States it is Rs.54.00 lakh per candidate. For the Union Territories, the maximum limit is Rs.70 lakh per candidate for NCT of Delhi and Rs.54.00 lakh per candidate for other UTs. One person who worked very closely with a party commented: ‘It is realistic if they make it per-day ceiling!’
Within just a few weeks of declaration of elections, the Election Expenditure Observers from the IRS and their colleagues have seized Rs 195 cr illegal money transported for meeting election expenditure. The state of Andhra Pradesh lead with a seizure of Rs 118 cr. Apart from this 25.56 lakh litres of liquor and 70kg of Heroin were also seized.
A company who is in the area of media and publicity was approached by a few people to take up the campaign for their candidates. But they said, they will give only 10% of the amount by cheque and the rest will be by cash. The company refused the contract. Glad to hear about such a company which did not fall for the black beauty.
(Views are personal) Sibichen K Mathew