Does High Cost of Electioneering Foster Corruption?
The largest democracy of the world is a successfully functional democracy. It is worth feeling pride that there have not been large dismal aberrations since India became a republic. The political parties based on different ideologies emerged as the key players of democracy. Interestingly, the number of political parties has risen from 53 in 1952 to 671 in the 2019 General Elections. This twelve-fold increase in the number of political parties exhibits the innate interest of the citizens for a strong democracy. The successful change of guard is another positive sign of the country’s firm belief in the constitutional provisions. But, there have been many instances of usage of unethical practices to woo the voters.
Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today.Mahatma Gandhi
Now, the statutory regulator of elections has prescribed the stringent code to be adhered to by those in the fray. The attempts for bringing transparency in the election process have led to the political parties revealing their election expenditure. The huge expenditures incurred in respective elections are now in the public domain. Therefore, it is worthwhile to ponder upon the election campaign expenditures and electoral impacts.
The general election expenditure of 2019 shows that the two major political parties have spent hundreds of crores of rupees. The average spending per candidate belonging to these parties is in crores, while it is quite less for those belonging to other parties. The general election-2019 statistics shows that the minimum number of contestants at any constituency has been three. Certain candidates and parties spend a huge sum of money on elections. The inability of others to spend on the same scale makes an electoral impact.
Obviously, there is a requirement of money to have better reach to the voters in election campaigns. But, the disparity in the spending capability of the candidates dents the basic premise of equity. Quite likely, the poor economic standing of many citizens deprives them of entering the legislatures. On the other hand, many candidates garner finances to contest the election. But, such winning candidates may be under obligation to support their patrons and hence causing an impediment to their rational and honest functioning.
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Both, the deprivation of competent ones from the legislature due to economic reasons and the winning of elections with someone’s financing are not a healthy sign for a democracy. Ideally, the legislature should not have any baggage of biases as it influences their participation in the legislative processes. The political parties venture out to fundraising for surviving their cadre structure across the country. Those making generous contributions inculcate a sense of getting favours post-election from the parties.
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The obligations of any kind are the nuclei of corruption, nepotism, and other ailments for democracy. The constantly increasing cost of election campaigns should not become a deterrent to those who are willing to contribute to their nation. To summarize, let us cerebrate the following;
Will the elected representatives who have spent crores of rupees to win the elections not recover this cost?
How many of those who supported in winning the election will not expect something back through his/her office of influence?
- Can the elected representatives, who have won with financial or other support get rid of obligations without paying them back in tangible or intangible form?
- Do the voters vote for the candidates based on their contributions or propaganda?
- Do the voters not get carried away by the flamboyant expenditure and freebees by the candidates in the fray?
- Do all the voters consider the election manifesto of the political party before voting it to power?
- Do all the voters consider the attributes and qualifications of candidates in the fray before voting them to win?
- Is it not necessary for the winning candidate to be free from obligations to functional rationally?
- Should the online voting system for those unable to reach the polling stations not develop?
- Is it not better to create a state-sponsored robust framework and necessary infrastructure for election campaigns for equity to candidates?
- Is there not a critical need to enrich the legislature with much more competence?
- Will the better candidates come in the election fray, if the cost of contesting elections is borne by the state?
And, at last,
- Have the elections reduced to a marketing campaign where the seller (the candidate) simply markets his/her product to the customer (the voter) instead of improving the actual quality of the product?
The success of democracy lies in the best quality of public representatives participating in the legislative processes. The commitment, integrity, and intellectual capabilities are the basic attributes regarding the suitability of public representatives. The financial standing of contestants should not have any place. But, presently, the nature of elections require a huge amount of money spent in activities like extensive travelling, holding mammoth rallies, gatherings, massive publicity, hiring workforce, lodging & boarding of supporters in the election period, sometimes distributing freebies, etc. Thus, the financial capacity becomes an important influencer of the electoral process.
Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect.Oswald Spengler
Having equity and access at the core of our democracy necessitates the evolution of a suitable election procedure. The expenditure of money should not influence the election process. The need of the hour is to create a viable eco-system in which the electioneering processes are uniform for all contestants at the expense of the state.
The state-sponsored elections can facilitate anyone willing to contest the election. This will automatically, desist the parties from fundraising and will not be burdened with any kind of obligation. The strategy to minimize the transactions of money during the election process can potentially eschew corruption, nepotism, amassing wealth, etc. by the elected representatives for their future survival.
The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy.Theodore H. White
Apparently, the quantum of expenditures incurred concludes that money is a necessity for contesting elections. This is the reason due to which the political parties and candidates constantly strive for financial support. The differing financial capabilities affect the equality of the citizens in a democracy. The quality of deliberations in the legislature can only improve with the improvement in the capabilities of the elected representatives. A nationwide debate is inevitable to have major reforms in the electoral process. Money should not play any role in influencing the voters.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author solely. TheRise.co.in neither endorses nor is responsible for them.
About the author
An electronics engineer by profession, pursuing M.A. in political science from IGNOU, Delhi, and having wide-ranging interests in the contemporary social, economic, administrative and political issues of India.
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