India Corruption Study: Lure of money in lieu of votes


That money is paid to voters for their vote is known to those who are familiar with grass root polities of India. We do not have any data for the magnitude of the phenomena except occasional newspaper reports and television pictures of voters being distributed cash (and of course gifts of all kind) or unaccounted cash being confiscated before reaching voters. But neither the extent of voters lured nor the amount of money involved in this menace is known for any state with any reliability. The Assembly elections in Karnataka (2013) and Municipal elections in undivided Andhra Pradesh (2014) and some by-elections earlier in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have set a new benchmark in this regard. When viewed together with 2007 and 2008 pre-general election surveys, the trend has become of threatening proportion to the very fundamentals of democracy. India Corruption Study which CMS started in 2000 as annual series found certain linkage between bribes citizens pay in availing basic public services and the quid-pro-quo practice of voting. That is how CMS went about tracking this phenomena of money in lieu of votes in Lok Sabha and some Assembly elections.

Although corruption is much talked about as a national malice, one aspect that has not been seriously pursued is that this corruption by way of “note for vote” is depriving good governance and is threatening the roots of democracy, equity and development endeavors of the country. And that in fact, is the source and origin of “cycle of corruption” in the country. That is why CMS described it as “mother of all corruption” in the country. This particular phenomena has not become a priority concern either of corruption crusaders or of political leaders or of mass media as it should have been by explaining voters what accepting doles in lure and in lieu of vote meant to voters. On the contrary, news media reports boost the phenomena. The way the news media reports such instances is as if it is an isolated affair to do with a few candidates in some constituencies.

When CMS took to the annual surveys on corruption involving citizens availing basic public services in 2000, corruption in general was among the top ten concerns of the people at large. More than a decade later, with expose of series of scams and extensive media coverage, corruption is being viewed in the top five problems or concerns of the country. Corruption across the public services has not declined, as one would expect. Increased public concern has not led to decline in note for vote either. India Corruption Study bring out that the phenomena of bribe giving by citizen and taking cash as voters in fact has spread far and wide.

The year 2014 could be called as “Year of Elections in India” as it had elections to Lok Sabha as well as to Assembly of seven States. Three of them were held along with Lok Sabha and the others were held separately in a different month. In two of the States, Maharastra and Haryana, Congress or Congress led government is ruling for second or third term and they are accused of corruption. Field survey in these States indicate that a high percentage of voters changed their voting choice in the last minute. As such, in these States, special inquiries were made with probes on what factors determined such last minute shifts in voting preference.

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