Money Power at the Polls
There are many people who have seen more than ten general elections in the country and have been witness to how money and muscle power have been used to sway voting patterns. This has happened more in areas where the culture of block voting has struck deep roots, making a mockery of what is regarded as healthy for real democracy. Such block voting has been the norm in the tea gardens of Assam for decades, and the generous application of feasting and liquor has been the accepted practice. After such libations, all that is necessary is for the mager of the tea garden concerned to send word to the labour force as to which political party to vote for. Despite some margil changes in the pattern, the exercise has remained the same. One difference this year was that political parties (more prominently the Congress) went about making gifts of yarn for looms, blankets, and mosquito nets to voters more openly than ever before. Even school buildings were used to distribute such gifts to voters. And by the look of things, even money is going to be used to buy votes with the same swagger of defiance. The Election Commission of India, always late about enforcing essential laws for the fair conduct of elections, seems to have woken up a trifle late again to the mece of the money power this time. It has certainly observed the free and easy flow of huge amounts to be used for buying votes, and has taken some action. A crore of rupees was confiscated in Guwahati alone on a single day. This had not happened before. However, one could easily be misled. It is very likely that much more money is about to be used in the April elections, and that we have just had proof of this by what has been found. The bulk of the money is probably still safe waiting for the right time for distribution.