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Election reform: A slow but steady march

Sunday - October 7, 2018 9:58 am , Category : OPINION & INTERVIEW

WTN- In what can be called a landmark decision, which is a right step in the direction of ensuring a cleaner election process, the election commission has restricted the use of cash money by each candidate during the polls.

It has stipulated the maximum cash that a candidate can carry with himself to Rs 10,000 and has also set the maximum cash amount he can spend during the election to Rs 20,000. The rest of the monetary transactions has to be done by electronic money transfer modes or by using cheques.

The EC believes this will minimise the practice of ‘vote for money’ that is prevalent in many constituencies and which many political parties or individual leaders of various parties promote to ensure their win. If there is a limit on the use of cash, doling out the same to a large number of people to lure them into voting a particular candidate will naturally become difficult because the candidate will have to manage with only the Rs 10,000 he has, or at best the 20,000 he has the authority to spend in total.

Such a paltry amount cannot be fully spent on bribing voters, because not only this meager amount be insufficient, there are other overhead costs and contingency expenses too that have to be made from this amount. Nor do voters can be given cheques, because that will need a valid legal reason.

E-payments and cheque transfers will also bring income tax transparency and black money circulation in the system thus can be weeded out. Every transaction should be fair and open to scrutiny in a healthy democracy. Elections in India have long been fought on the strength of ill-begotten money and muscle. It is time we ended the system and cleansed the political battlefield for better people to join in.

As long as there are clandestine dealings, nefarious elements will have an upper hand. Administrative teams will now keep strict watch on election expenses and the modes of payment by candidates to ensure the stipulations are not violated.

Elections in the country have become a big show business of heft and glitz. Lesser money will mean lesser of the grandstanding. In a poor country like India, where millions still live below the poverty line, such ostentatious displays are unbecoming of a civilised people. If the parties have money, they can spend the same on social activities like spread of education and healthcare, rather than wasting them on personal aggrandisement. The EC has even gone to the extent of suggesting the maximum limit of election spending be limited to Rs 28 lakh per candidate, most of which would be through e-payments like net banking.

How political parties react to these inunctions has to be seen, but we should certainly appreciate the EC for taking a progressive step that can be a trendsetter for all time to come. Like many other reforms pending in the country, election reforms too is pending for long and it is an urgent need for strengthening democracy. 


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