The big question for some voters as India’s marathon national election reaches its final stages isn’t who will win, it is how much candidates will dole out in cash, alcohol and other goodies to bag their support. Residents and election officials alike say vote-buying has long been a problem in the world’s largest democracy, even though it is against the law. Early reports suggest it may be widespread again in the current round, which began April 7 and ends Monday. Results are expected four days later. In the northern state of Punjab, for instance, election-monitoring teams have seized over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin, 50 kilograms of opium and thousands of liters of illicit alcohol that they believe may have been meant for buying votes. In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, police are investigating possible criminal charges against the wife of a candidate who was caught carrying $75,000 in cash in a computer bag while traveling on a public bus to her husband’s constituency. The woman denied any wrongdoing.
And in Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Munni, a 36-year-old domestic helper who has no surname and earns about $50 a month, said she got 200 rupees, or about $8, and a nose ring from a local party for her vote. She said all her neighbors had taken the money, but expressed dissatisfaction with the jewelry. “The nose ring is too small,” she said.
Overall, India’s Election Commission says it has seized $46 million in cash it suspects was intended to buy votes this year, along with 21 million liters of alcohol. Officials say they have deployed large teams to try to prevent fraud.
Political analysts say the current front-runner to become prime minister, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, likely has enough support from voters disenchanted with the country’s sluggish economy to win without shenanigans. The BJP, like other major parties in India, says it doesn’t pay for votes. Whatever their influence, bribes breed mistrust in Indian democracy while adding to the cost of running for office, even if their impact on election results is debatable.
Full Article: India’s Election Problem: Votes for Sale – WSJ.com.