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A challenge for Election Commission

Cash-for-votes: a challenge for EC

The two major Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu have been vying with one another in offering a wide range of freebies that are budgeted to cost the exchequer Rs 94,100 crore during 2020-21 and this is expanding. 

With elections to the state assembly just a few months away, political parties of Tamil Nadu are stepping up their campaigns. AIADMK, spearheaded by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami, has been vigorously campaigning across the state. Principal opposition DMK, led by M K Stalin, has been active in reaching out to villages spread across the state.

In 2009 DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s elder son, M K Alagiri, introduced the ‘Thirumangalam formula’ of cash-for-vote for winning elections. It proved quite effective.

The cash-for-vote practice defies the ingenuity of the Election Commission. Under various pretexts like ear-piercing or other domestic functions, party functionaries used to distribute cash to prospective voters. These expanded to giving currency-laden covers along with the delivery of newspapers. There is also ‘gifting’ of a wide range of consumer goods. Remember the widespread distribution of pressure cookers during the campaign for the by-election at for the RK Nagar constituency?

I found this practice has started again for the forthcoming elections. To attract crowds as also to facilitate the distribution of ‘gifts,’ a ‘token’ system has been practised. In a recent meeting, a local political leader aspiring to be a candidate for a leading party, distributed at the end of his political meeting, tokens to a few hundreds. A few days later I noticed a large number of people standing in a queue at the plot of a well-known leader of a trade association who made elaborate arrangements to hand stainless steel vessels for those who handed the tokens. It is rumoured that a family member of the trader may get the ticket to contest.

 How can the Election Commission (EC) keep track of such a well-oiled system to buy the voters?

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