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Time to save election expenditure? Needed: Honest, educated, efficient political 'anti-hero'

By Sudhansu R Das 

Political parties in India spend massive expenditures during election campaigns. The 2019 Lok Sabha election was the world’s most expensive election; a report by the Centre for Media Studies shows a huge amount of $8 billion was spent to conduct the 2019 Lok Sabha election. An authentic documentation of the election expenditure since independence is not available; every Indian deserves to know the expenditure incurred by political parties during election since independence.
Right from the Panchayat election to the Parliament election, political parties depend on money power to influence voters. According to some politicians, for an MP election the expenditure varies from an average Rs 6 crore to 20 crore depending on the size of the constituency. It shoots up many times in some constituencies also. Massive rallies, road shows, processions etc. are organized by political parties to influence voters. How to limit the election expenditure to build a healthy democracy is the biggest challenge before the country?
For a simple councilor election in Pune, political parties give dinner to slum dwellers for nearly a month, distribute sarees, household goods and take the slum dwellers to picnic spots. Liquor and cash are distributed just before the election in most of the constituencies; it is a normal scene across the country. Responsible, honest and desh-bhakt political leaders must stop this rot to spread; they should give election tickets to brave, honest and educated candidates right from Panchayat election to the MP election.
Gone are the days when committed workers of political parties made door to door election campaigns; they did it out of love and respect for their leaders and party ideologies. Over the years the dedicated volunteer breed has disappeared with the dissolve of the party ideologies; the compromising attitude of the party leaders to remain in power has disillusioned the cadres. Besides, the political leadership’s inability to inspire young cadres with personal examples has de-motivated the cadres.
Today the present kind of political workers are hired for money; many of those workers are seen working for multiple parties. Even voters of vote banks bargain with political parties for extending support. Though dedicated cadres can reduce the election expenditure; it will take a long time for the national parties to bring them to party folds.
Political parties find it difficult to get absolute majority on their own and they tie up with other parties with different ideologies and principles. Managing the magic number to rule has become a very expensive affair. Political parties resort to turn coat politics and spend huge sums to get the majority. Unless the political parties groom their own cadres and sustain cadres’ interest with honest leadership, the general public will continue to suffer; the huge donation collected from different donors has to be returned with dividends by the public in the form of taxes.
Today water bodies and fertile agricultural land disappear very fast; groundwater becomes dry, bio-diversity declines and the basic human needs are accessible with high price. Good political leaders should curb election expenditure and set examples of winning elections with real development work. Though money and muscles continue to play an important role in winning elections, there are instances of honest independent candidates winning elections.
The present political environment which has become dirty with money, power and compromises with ideologies and principles, opens up new opportunities for honest people; it is the right time for them to plunge into the political water. Dedicated political cadres instead of lamenting over the situation should fight elections independently. If they don’t want to fight elections, they should support honest and educated candidates in the election campaign.
Smooth conduct of the election is not the only role for the election commissioner; it should develop a state of the art mechanism to inspect each account of the political parties and make democratic elections free, fair and transparent. The country should pass a strong law to minimize the election expenditure to create inclusive opportunities for honest and educated people to fight elections. Political parties should use electronic media for campaign and avoid expensive mega rallies and road shows which also cause huge man hour loss to the country.
The country should wake up to save the massive election expenditure and use the money for the development of the country’s core strengths: schools, good teachers, research and innovation, health centers, healthy water bodies, bio-diversity, vibrant domestic market and export. One thing the national political parties should remember is that India has to live among very hostile neighbors like Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
There is growing influence of China over our neighbors like Nepal, Sri Lanka and other small South Asian nations. This situation demands for honest, educated and efficient candidates with moral courage to play the role of a political anti-hero.

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