A hundred kilograms of heroin, ten million liters of liquor, 40 million rupees caught in a small car at a checkpoint in Ghaziabad and around 815 million eligible voters. Money used in luring voters in this election season surpassed the 1.9 billion rupees. The amount of opium and liquor being confiscated in parts of India show only a small portion of the larger picture: A cash-for-votes system whereby politicians of various parties can secure votes in advance with the help of, you guessed it, cold cash.
And it’s nothing new. Diplomatic cables published by The Hindu consisted of Wikileaks in 2009 which told us how cash for votes is the normal mode used in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. A payment will be slipped under the door along with the daily newspaper, a promise to dig a community well, a potential plan to uplift the living conditions of a dejected neighborhood, etc. The list of surreptitious cash offers is neither nascent nor limited to India; have a look at its north-western neighbor.
But it takes us to a bigger and perhaps more pertinent question that all countries aspiring to the spirit of demos should ask themselves: How democratic is a system when its very constituents see the futility of the democratic process and resort to selling their votes? The independent Election Commission of India explains this trend to sell votes for bucks and booze as an immense problem and claims that since the advent of businessmen participating in politics, buying votes has become a routinely matter.
In democracies, politicians are expected to persuade people and, much to our chagrin, the paths taken are often more illegal than legal. Thanks to a void of legal and effective venues, no one should be surprised when they see cash slipped under the door with the morning’s newspaper.