By Shweta Raj Kanwar | February 24, 2018

The role of money in the Indian political scenario is one factor that can bring a party to power or may even lead to its downfall and its influence is not something new for the people. As the three Northeast Indian sates- Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya are at a crucial juncture with the ongoing Assembly Election processes, the amount of seizures of huge quantities of cash in poll bound states becomes a matter of prime concern which makes us wonder whether Meghalaya is going the Arunachal and even the Nagaland way where use of money, muscle and even liquor plays a deciding role among many sections of voters.

As Meghalaya goes to polls on February 24, it may be recalled that in the past few weeks, just after the Election Commissioner of India’s visit to the state, huge quantities of cash has been recovered from many parts of the state. Citing some instances here:

On February 19, Rs. 17 lakh cash was seized from East Jaintia Hills. Prior to that, on February 14, it was informed that Rs. 14 lakh cash was seized from in and around the state. It is a known fact that as per ECI guidelines, no one is allowed to carry cash above Rs. 50, 000 but yet, such recoveries had raised eyebrows among the people of poll bound Meghalaya. Apart from this, a huge consignment of CGI sheets was also seized and these are just those cases that have been reported. This clearly shows that the use of money to lure voters is definitely a trick that works out pretty well here.

TNT- The Northeast Today spoke to some concerned voters in Meghalaya and here is what they have to say:

Dr. Valentine B. Sohtun:  The criminalization of politics and the use of money power in politics is not unique to Meghalaya alone or India as a whole for that matter. It is present in western democracies and in other third world countries as well. What makes India stand out is, that it has the largest and the most diverse electorate in the world composed of various ethnicities and religious communities. This has given politicians a chance to slice and dice the electorates at their whims.

Meghalaya, despite being a small state, has three major ethnic communities and several minor ones which again amongst themselves, belongs to several religious communities and to different denominations of a particular religion. This has fueled a high level of political competition.

ALSO READ: Meghalaya Elections: Political campaigning or holidaying Sir? Asks the Media!

Elections in India are a costly affair. Though there is a ceiling to the expenditure of a candidate there are no limitations to the expenditure of a political party. The involvement of Money power in elections happens because of two factors:

Firsty, as elections are growing costlier, Political parties are desperate to identify candidates with deep pockets, this has led them to identify wealthy individuals with dubious reputations.

Secondly, the voters have their own reason to support candidates who are wealthy or who has a questionable past. As the Government is unable to fulfill its basic responsibilities, the voters seek refuge in a Strongman who can deliver what the government has failed. In short, there is a huge gap between what the citizens’ demands from a state and what the state can deliver.

This is further fueled by the fact that many politicians have made politics their family profession; they accumulate wealth while in power and invest their assets where they can avoid scrutiny and earn decent returns. Buying voters to remain in power is an investment.

The use of money power in elections is a subvert of democracy, and this will continue as long as there is no upgrade in governance. This means that the government must use its resources, personnel and other things to dispense justice, public service and public security. This cannot happen overnight. Steps must be taken in the right direction to ensure that there is no money power involved in elections so as to prevent criminalization of politics.

Badandor Deingdoh– Money does indeed play a huge role in Meghalaya’s politics especially during elections there was a time when money could impact the entire state universally during elections but now that’s not the case anymore. Just look back at the last elections! You’ll see rich powerful people being pinned down by the newbie now. Even some powerful sitting MLAs were being uprooted. Money had no role in these results. It was surprising yet refreshing. Now I think a great percentage of our voters have reasoning power and can propel their thoughts far into the future and not just about that 500 bucks and free booze and a grand picnic after winning. But yes,  location is also a factor, because I think the mentality of people can vary from place to place within the state.

Kumar Thapa– Cash for votes is not a new thing in India. With numerous reports surfacing about cash seizure all around the state by the police from individuals and supporters of political parties and candidates in Meghalaya one can only wonder as to how long is its reach to persuade an average voter to vote in their favour. I don’t know how does a voter evaluate their vote in exchange of money but the political parties/candidates do take the money factor pretty seriously. Otherwise why would there be a competition in bribing their potential voters!

It’s so hypocritical of some parties to accuse another of trying to bribe the voters but the reality is every party would do the same if they had the required money power. If nothing can convince, money surely does. This is especially true in one of a kind of such cases.

Remember the Cash for vote scam of 2008 that embarrassed our nation in the international arena? When high and mighty people like Opposition’s BJP MPs can be bought by Congress to vote in their favour in order to survive a Confidence motion in the parliament, how will the general public fare in their evaluation as a free voter!

The majority of voters in India are either poor or middle class citizens where easy and fast money is a constant motivator by default. The candidates/ political parties always want to and to a great degree have actually capitalized on it every time they saw an opportunity. Cash for vote is here to stay for a long time unless our people are economically empowered and uplifted. But I wonder whether we will ever be economically independent when the politicians of our country feed and thrive in their political life by keeping a percentage of the population always under poverty line!

If the people of India move towards economic independence and freedom will the political parties have any relevance as far as the well sold issues and agendas of poverty and economy are concerned?

Ravinder Singh Bhandari– Democracy is wonderful manifestation of equality. Whether the richest person of Shillong or poor Kwai seller has been given one vote each. Election is also time when voter is reminded of his power Business models are made and experimented in Harvard. But money, muscle , cast ,religion Models are well made and experimented on Indian election turf.

The aim of all above is same- to deny “ONE MAN ONE VOTE”, taken from constitution of Temple of democracy. The model is simple..Buy the vote of individual, family, locality just a week or 2/3 days before elections, pump money, put people under influence of liquor, muscle power bought out of money and with collective votes bought under influence win elections. The money taken from financers including big businessmen is then given back quid pro by making policies in favour of them crushing the very same who were bought and essential in winning votes. I Wish the poor, innocent voter understands this” Indian Election Model” and votes with a sole aim to select right candidate who works for betterment of people, society, state and Nation. Illiterate, emotional and fools we are and shall be used by Political parties and Netas till we become wise. Waiting for that day….

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