A very hot topic of discussion in Tamil Nadu is an incident in which cash worth 11 crore rupees was seized from a cement warehouse of a DMK worker, which the owner himself admitted was meant for disbursement among voters, as also the cancellation of polling in Vellore constituency following the haul.
News emanate that both DMK and its main rival AIADMK have approached the Election Commission demanding repeal of the deferment decision. Few will be surprised by the news for the simple reason that giving vote in exchange for cash or valuable items is nothing new in Tamil Nadu. The only thing is that newspaper columns for market data do not show the vote price of each day!
By now tens of thousands of guest workers in Kerala from other states have travelled to their native states. But this trip to home is not propelled by the civic urge to exercise their at any cost. A quick chat with them will tell that those labourers make this journey spurred by the promise of travel cost plus an attractive compensation offered by various political parties. They cannot be blamed. In spite of it being laid down in the constitution, and Election Commission tightening its rules, political parties and their candidates, on both ruling and opposition sides, have been for decades training the people towards a habit not to vote free and with a conscience, but to sell their vote to in auction. Whowever gives the higher amount of currency, his writ will prevail when the common people choose the symbol for which to cast their vote.
But then who is determined that this vote trade, that strikes at the foundation of democracy, should be stopped and should in no case be allowed to continue? All the prominent national parties have come to terms with this criminal deal. It is to arrange this vote purchase that they get donations of crores of rupees from big corporates to ordinary merchants, by coaxing, cajoling or threatening and handpick billionaires and make them candidates. It has already been pointed out that in 2014 general election, tycoons like Ambani, Adani and other corporate giants had spent over ten thousand crores for Narendra Modi and BJP. And the country has by now seen whose interest Modi government has protected in the name of national interest during the last five years. The Rafale bribe scam of Rs 36,000 Crore is still being hotly debated during election campaigns.
Confirmed figures tell us that 89 per cent of the corporate donations during 2018 went to the saffron brigade. As per figures released by the voluntary organization, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), out of the total of 325.2 Crore, 290.22 Crore was received by the extreme Hindutva outfits. But this is not enough to touch the tip of the total amount spent. It is certain that the money to be used for distribution among voters, to retain the winning candidates with the party, and to pay for the floor-crossing by MLA's and MP's from other parties, will all come from black money, as against money through proper channels. Proof of that will come from the diary notes uncovered from former Karnataka chief minister Yedyoorappa by 'The Caravan' magazine. According to the diary, Yedyoorappa, who once was forced to quit the party on corruption charges, after returning to the party spent a whopping 1,800 crore to pay BJP leaders, lawyers and even judges to ensure his place in the party. Most recently, the size of cash offered to bring down the Congress-Janata Dal(S) coalition government and to form a BJP government, was enough to stun the whole country.
True, there have been amendments in People's Representation Act that aimed at stemming the black money deals that defeat the very purpose of elections which form the foundation of democracy. For example, as per an amendment made in 2003, all political parties and individuals and companies are bound to submit a report of contributions over Rs 20,000 to the Election Commission every financial year. Failing this, the party concerned will not be eligile for the deductions in income tax. Since the assumption of office by Modi government, the limit of 20,000 was brought down to Rs 2,000. With this, the volume of unaccounted contributions increased consideration. Industries and capitalists generally tend to bless those in whose hands power lies. And since power in the country and in most states is in BJP's hands, money flows to its coffers.
The statistics of 2017-18 tell us that the share of BJP alone is 12 times what was received by six other parties including the Congress put together. Congress, which lost power, found its sources of funds diminished drastically. And that party will escape from this, only if the big sharks learn from their sources that the people will not give another chance to the Modi-Amit Shah duo. Ultimately, only if an economy liberated from the clutches of crony capitalism and neo-lilberalism and a people with a sense of direction emerge, will Indian democracy be saved at some time.