With the announcement of dates for two-phase assembly elections, the model code of conduct is in force across the State. But its provisions are being violated almost daily, keeping Election Commission officials busy. Its surveillance teams and flying squads are making large cash seizures in various places including Guwahati. Police and intelligence officials are on road flagging down vehicles and conducting raids at specific locations. The dimensions of this law-breaking can be gauged from the fact that in just 48 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday last, at least Rs 1.8 crore of uccounted cash was seized. At five locations in Guwahati city, cash seizures totaling nearly Rs 88.5 lakh were made. In an age becoming rapidly cashless with money transferred electronically through card or online banking, why are some people risking moving around with large bundles of cash? The suspicions are that some political parties have already begun distributing cash to buy votes. There are allegations that mafia elements and goon brigades are being liberally paid to rig the system on polling day. This apart, party workers, supporters and volunteers need to be paid in cash for campaigning work; publicity materials have to be put up and other logistics expenses met. Not just cash, voters are also sought to be influenced with government welfare materials, illicit liquor and other goodies. Contesting an election has become a very costly proposition, but most of the money is spent clandestinely. The Election Commission is trying to enforce accountability regarding election expenses, yet there are loopholes galore. It is mostly black money that is driving our electoral process, which has ominous implications for the country’s democratic polity. There has been some new thinking in several countries about public and private funding of elections, making disclosures of dotions received and maintaining reliable accounts of funds spent. It is necessary to keep abreast with such thinking so that all political parties and candidates get a level playing field to contest elections.
food for thought