EDITORIAL

Sensex shrouds realities, Nota uncovers nexus

Sensex

Shivaji Sarkar
The writer can be reached at shivajisarkar@yahoo.com

The stock market is exactly not an indicator of realities. The sensex is rising even as new issues seem to hit the economy.

Does it mean that sensex at 39,000 is not impacted by political situations? Are the issues of nationalism and patriotic dispensation able to cover up critical situations that are affecting the people?

The answer is not easy. But ‘None of the above’ (Nota) option for voters has raised a new concern. Political parties have been telling voters not to press the button. Even non-political RSS chief Mohan Bhagvat gave a call to “select a candidate, not reject any”.

The Election Commission (EC) figures say that the highest 2.5 per cent Nota were registered in Chhattisgarh and 0.5 per cent in Mizoram during the 2018 State polls. It affected prospects in 22 constituencies in Madhya Pradesh; 15 each in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Five States – Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Telangana – registered 8.44 lakh Nota votes in 2018.

Nota secured a total of 1.33 core votes in elections held between 2013 and 2017, according to an analysis of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It is becoming a game changer much to the chagrin of political parties.

Even the present elections are having a large number of Nota. It has become a problem for managing the polls. Parties are spending huge sums to manage votes. But a section of the people are playing spoilsport. Many of the Nota voters are firm cadres of some parties. They may be dissatisfied with the candidate or in most cases the party itself or for the non-fulfillment of the promises they made.

It was noticed in parts of western UP, across the spectrum unsuitable persons reportedly were put up in some constituencies. Voters ended up pressing the Nota button in disgust.

It is more so as polls are no more a matter of free choice. During the late 2018 Assembly, it was said, that some parties opened moneybags to “help” voters. In some constituencies, it was said, each vote costs Rs 5,000 or more in cash.

The EC cancelled polling in Vellore LS seat in Tamil Nadu after detecting “systematic design to influence voters through large-scale distribution of cash. It would severely jeopardize the conduct of free and fair election”. The EC wrote to President on April 16.

Despite demonetization, which was supposed to have eliminated black money, the seizure of cash during polls is on the rise. In Vellore alone over Rs 11.48 crore packed in plastic bags, with ward-wise details, was seized from a DMK functionary.

Cash, drugs and liquor valued at over Rs 2500 crore have been seized across the country since the beginning of the Lok Sabha poll process till April 15, 2019. It is stated to be double that of 2014 polls.

Gujarat recorded the maximum seizure valued at Rs 509 crore. A seizure of liquor off the State’s coast is estimated at Rs 500 crore. The figures for Andhra Pradesh are Rs 158.61 crore, Punjab Rs 144.39 crore, Nagaland Rs 92.26 crore in cash 62000 litres of liquor – total of Rs 3.02 crore and UP Rs 135.13 crore. The figures from other States are trickling in. According to an estimate, the EC seizures are estimated at Rs 100 crore a day.

It hints at cash playing key role in the polls. Can a poor man really contest elections unless he creates a clout?

Some candidates are not seen to be so affluent. But they have support of political parties. So where does the parties get their funding? According to National Election Watch, 8.9 per cent of the income of parties is from unknown sources, 2.16 per cent from the electoral bonds. The Congress earns 82 per cent from unknown sources and the BJP 73 per cent. They say these are through voluntary contributions or sale of coupons.

Data show that six electoral trusts donated about Rs 105 crore to national parties between 2005 and 2012 before transparency guidelines were introduced in 2014 mandating disclosure of donors.

From 2014 and 2017, nine registered electoral trusts donated a total Rs 637.54 crore to political parties. The contribution to political parties rose from Rs 85 crore in 2014 to Rs 325.27 crore in 2017.

Money plays a crucial role. The corporate-type functioning of the parties, tight-fisted approach of the leaders, reminiscent of the Indira Gandhi era, raise many questions.
If money flows in, external influence is natural. Are the parties really having a democratic functioning though all say they adhere to it?

All parties love the autocratic structure. Smaller it is, more is the stranglehold. Lobbies penetrate these as one or the other has importance in different regions.

This mocks internal democracy. So buying votes as has been alleged in Supreme Court now is the custom to save huge investments. A change in government can make or mar companies. Since all are beneficiaries, none raises the “political” issue.

Deep cleansing of the system is needed. Stock sensex may be a ruse for covering up political malfunctioning. Nota is possibly exposing the unholy nexus. That’s the vibrancy of democracy.