Bribing Voters Worldwide and in India


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Bribing voters in India

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Every one of us yearns to raise our status in society, but politicians entertain hopes of great magnitude. There are many men and women of principle in the world, but once they enter politics they just forget those principles they strived for, and constantly seek money, property, and power. Except a few politicians many do not care about their deteriorating reputation.

It is now an apothegm that any candidate standing for any elections in any part of the world would use all available ploys to influence voters. Invariably, many potential voters expect the handouts from the contesting candidates.

Black’s Law Dictionary, the most widely used law dictionary in the United States, defines bribery as an act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty.

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Smoking Marijuana

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On December 30, 2013, The Monitor carried news that US Federal authorities arrested a local politiquera Diana Castañeda in McAllen, Texas, United States, for paying voters in cash, beer and cigarettes during the 2012 primary and general elections as well as taking voters to buy drugs after they had cast their ballot. According to court records, Castañeda confessed that she was a politiquera for various candidates and that during the 2012 elections she was paid $125 by one candidate to get food for voters and to pay them $10 to $20 per vote. However, the name of the candidate that gave her the money was not listed in court records.

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Drinker

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On November 13, 2013, Mail Online India reported:

City agencies have seized over 2,064 litres of liquor in the past few days and recovered more than 63,000 bottles during the last one month – 61,500 were ‘quarter’ bottles, which are mainly meant for distribution.

Around 7,000 bottles seized on Tuesday were all of the quarter bottle size (180 ml).

… a few MLAs revealed that liquor bottles are generally distributed a day before the polls. The police and excise department have seized over 63,000 bottles of alcohol in Delhi over the past month after seeing a record-breaking amount of illegally supplied liquor.

The illegal supply of liquor has crossed all records in the run-up to the Delhi assembly elections. …

“Quarter bottles are distributed among slum dwellers and in resettlement colonies. Politicians ask their workers to keep a stock of bottles at secret locations,” a sitting MLA said.

Delhi chief electoral officer Vijay Dev said the Election Commission has asked all the agencies to crack down heavily on the illegal supply of liquor in Delhi.

Politicians use subtle methods to distribute alcohol to avoid run-ins with the police.

“The voter is given a chit to be deposited with a selected liquor vendor to get alcohol. Many candidates also finance parties hosted by other people and distribute liquor in such parties,” said an excise official.

India is a nation where over 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and illiteracy is around 35 percent.

Promise of Freebies to win votes

All political parties in India indulge in competitive politics. Their mission does not to make life better for the average person or banish unemployment. In certain states instead of promising to provide schools and households with basic amenities such as potable water and hygienic toilets, freedom from corruption, mitigate poverty, and improve the purchasing power of the people, the political leaders promise to provide colour TVs, electronic gadgets such as mixer-grinders, fans, and laptops, to voters who scarcely get electricity for more than four hours a day. Once these parties come into power they first inflate government expenditures, impose taxes, and then hand out enticing goodies instead of worthwhile goods; and that too only to the members of their party.

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Arvind Kejriwal
Arvind Kejriwal

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On March 28, 2013, as his indefinite fast against “inflated” power bills entered the sixth day, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal alleged both Congress and BJP were winning elections through bribing voters and using muscle power. He told his supporters:

“This is because BJP and Congress are both worried as a different kind of politics is slowly emerging in India. So far they are used to winning on the basis of bribing voters, money power and muscle power but now the voters have awakened. The elections will not be elections but revolution.”

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Wikileaks

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The Telegraph carried an article by Dean Nelson titled “WikiLeaks: Indian politicians ‘bought votes with cash tucked inside newspapers” that said:

In conversations with US diplomats, the son of India’s powerful home minister P. Chidambaram and an aide to a senior leader of one of the main coalition partners allegedly explained how the main parties in Tamil Nadu state routinely bribe voters to clinch close elections.

One allegedly said they had widely distributed envelopes containing 5000 Rupees in cash (£70) hidden inside voters’ morning newspapers.

The disclosures highlight the nature of electoral fraud in the world’s largest democracy, and its widespread acceptance. Indian political parties, in particular in the south, often offer televisions, refrigerators, and computers to voters to win elections.

American diplomat Frederick Kaplan, a principal officer in its Madras consulate, was surprised at how freely senior politicians apparently admitted paying bribes for votes.

In a cable dispatched on May 13, 2009, the last day of India’s general election, he explained the system to his colleagues in Washington: “Bribes from political parties to voters, in the form of cash, goods, or services, are a regular feature of elections in South India. Poor voters expect bribes from political candidates, and candidates find various ways to satisfy voter expectations. From paying to dig a community well to slipping cash into an envelope delivered inside the morning newspaper, politicians and their operatives admitted to violating election rules to influence voters. The money to pay the bribes comes from the proceeds of fund-raising, which often crosses into political corruption. Although the precise impact of bribery on voter behaviour is hard to measure, it no doubt swings at least some elections, especially the close races,” he wrote.

… “Weeks before the elections agents of the parties come to the neighbourhood with cash carried in rice sacks. They have copies of the voter lists and they distribute the money based on who is on the list.” The deliveries are made between “two and four in the morning, when the Election Commission is asleep,” he added.

One aide is quoted as revealing details of bribes paid by his boss. “It is no secret at all [he] paid 5,000 rupees per voter in Thirumangalam,” he said.

Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer who has led a crusade against corruption, said the cables revealed the “corruption of democracy” in India.

“These facts show the corruption and monetisation of the electoral process in India and therefore the corruption of the democracy in this country, where democracy essentially exists in a formal sense on paper, [but] effectively it is owned by those people who have money,” he said. “The money comes from all kinds of corruption which is rampant in India,” he added.

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