Cash for Votes instances have called for an amendment in the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (RPA)

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” – Mark Twain

Cash for Votes Row in Karnataka

Proving Mark Twain right, a recent sting operation shows Karnataka MLAs demanding crores of rupees to support a member in the Rajya Sabha election to be held on June 11, 2016.

The clip showed Mallikarjun Khuba, JD)S) MLA from the Basvkalyan constituency in the state asking for 5 crores. He later made a statement saying he deliberately took part in the deal knowing it was a sting operation in order to find out the big shots in the deal. The clip also shows, another JD(S) MLA, G.T.Devegowda and B.R.Patil of KLP Party among others.

BM Farooq of JD(S), K.C.Ramamurthy of Congress, Oscar Fernandes and Jairam Ramesh of Congress and Nirmala Sitharaman of BJP are skirmishing one another for the RS berth. All parties are short of votes, as JD(S) needs five extra votes to see victory. JDS has 40 members but need 45 votes. Congress is sure of two candidates. However, they need 13 extra votes for the vicotry of their third candidate and BJP is also short of one vote.

Moreover, in another twist of events on June 7th, JD(S) spokesperson Ramesh Babu filed a complaint with Election Commission of India (ECI) quoting statement of Energy Minister, D.K.Shivakumar, independent MLAs, P.Rajiv and Ashok Kheny who said that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had offered to release 100 crores to each of their constituencies in return of their support to Congress candidates.

Further, S.Murthy, Secretary of the Legislative Assembly sought a report about the same from the Chief Minister on Monday, 7th June 2016. In his reply to the notice sent by the returning officer, MR.Murthy, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah denied all charges.

Other Cash for Votes rows

Cash for votes row at Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies:

Polls at these two Tamil Nadu constituencies were shifted from 16th May to 23rd May and then again to 13th June as the election process was seriously vitiated by the parties as they offered money for votes. This was the first time that EC has taken such a harsh step as polls are only countermanded when there is evidence of physical force being used against the voters.

Telangana row, 2015:

In June 2015, TDP MLA Revanth Reddy was arrested by Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau for offering bribe to an Anglo Indian MLA in exchange of his vote for the TDP candidate.  A criminal case was filed against the Telangana Chief Minister which was then transferred to the CID.
A tape released in the news showed Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu openly being a part of the deal. However, while everyone wanted him to step down, he blatantly defended all his acts stooping very low in his actions to cover up all his mistakes. Here is a news report on the audio row tape during the battle between the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Chandra Babu Naidu and Chandreshekhar Rao.

Parliamentary Cash for Vote Scam, 2011:

Samajwadi Party MP, Rewati Raman Singh received call from former BJP Yuva Morcha member, Suhail Hindustani in order to strike a deal with BJP MPS before the Trust vote. The BJP MPs claimed that Singh first contacted them on behalf of the Samajwadi Party General, Amar Singh after which Sanjeev Saxena delivered a sum of Rs. 1 crore. Therefore, Amar Singh was questioned for around 90 minutes and Delhi Police investigated into the case.

Wikileaks Row, 2009:

A cable released by Wikileaks on 13th May, 2009 showed that politicians from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh bribed voters with cash, goods or services in exchange of votes. Representative of an NGO said that two main political parties in Tamil Nadu – DMK and AIADMK bribed voters regularly weeks before the election by carrying cash in rice sacks.

Law in India with respect to cash for votes

K.K. Ramesh, Managing Trustee of Tamil Nadu Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a private body, filed a case before the Madras High Court seeking amendment in the electoral laws to enable action against cash for votes scam. He also sought an interim direction to the Election Commission to declare the recent election in the 232 constituencies as invalid as bribing voters has become a common practice across parties.

Election processes have been garbed since many years. While, cash for votes have come out in the open only in the recent past. In 1980s, elections were rigged by exercising muscle power and capturing booths. Voters would be intimidated into voting for a candidate against their choice.
Therefore, Section 58A was introduced under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 in order to have electronic surveillance equipment that could capture videos during the process of voting in each booth.

EC’s notice to Law Ministry

After the recent cash for votes clippings that have come out in the open, EC has received a lot of flak for not having been able to prevent it. Therefore, EC called for fresh elections in the two constituencies of Tamil Nadu as instances of such scams have only increased in the recent past and is tarnishing the legitimacy of the polls.

In order to be able to reprimand such activities meticulously, the EC has written to the Law Ministry to insert Section 58B in the Act in order to countermand election on the ground of ‘bribery of electors.’

Adding cash for votes as a ground for countermanding elections is a viable solution

India is a democratic country that boasts of providing it’s citizen the right to choose their own representatives. If that very process itself is allowed to be undermined in such a manner, then people will lose whatever hope they have on the democratic system of the country.

These candidates are public servants and people holding positions of influence must not be left unscathed after having indulged in such shameful acts of corruption. Coming to power using such disgraceful means shows the kind shambles we are putting our country’s future into.

With changing times, it is only logical to empower EC to cancel such felonious polls as at present, there is more of cash for votes activities undertaken rather than using muscle power to intimidate the voters. Here’s to hoping that the Law Ministry shall take the appropriate steps as soon as possible.

Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia

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