It was a saturday morning and as usual I along with my team was deciding on the areas where we will likely patrol to understand and deter the use of money power during the elections.We started from our guesthouse to one of the densely populated areas of our constituency.To understand whether wineshops were maintaining proper accountal of any mass distribution of liquor , we went to a wine shop along with flying squads to check the accountal.Just as we were checking the cash registers and advising the wineshop manager not allow his shop to be used for any political activity, the flying squad got a call from someone informing that suspected distribution of cash is taking place in a remote village.We rushed along with the flying squad to that village but in the end we found nothing.As a part of your job , it is sometimes disappointing when you find nothing but some jobs are like that where one just follows the lead while one ends up finding nothing.
To end our chase we just stopped at a little shop to have a cup of tea and we also found a few men sitting there.We opened our conversation with them on whether there was any suspected distribution of cash in the vicinity.The obvious answer to such a question would be a ‘shocked no’ but an elderly man sitting there had a more laughable answer.He said that if we guys patrol like this than how is someone going to distribute money.This is the only time when people can get some additional income and we were hurting their chance.His words left everyone in splits.But suddenly the elderly person became very serious and said that even if someone gives him five thousand rupees , he will only vote as per his wish.No amount money can actually influence his decision.His words made an impression on our mind.An octagenerian was not speaking out his mind but was displaying the maturiy Indians have gained over the time.
Indian elections have a lot of systems in place and it is to credit of Indian democracy that elections continue to be held regularly and the change of regime is not taken as a surprise.The very fact that we are able to conduct elections peacefully is a major achievement given the fact that many places in developing world the regime in power rarely allows a free and fair elections.The credit must go to our institutions like parliament which has made meticulous laws that ensure free and fair elections and also to Election Commission of India which despite all the pressures is able to conduct the elections in peaceful manner and is continuously pursuing its goal of increasing voter participation and reducing the use of money and muscle power in elections.
The use of muscle power and money power varies from area to area.In states where law is still a fundamental issue, use of muscle power is frequent and states where prosperity is there, the use of money power is rampant.The distribution of freebies has become a culture in India and many times politicians also admit that money is a necessary but not the sufficient condition to win in an election.An Independent candidate privately admitted that where ever he is going for canvassing, people are asking him something or the other in order to give their assurance for the vote.When Voter behaviour has got so much transactional, can we blame only the politicians?After all, politicians have to win the elections and how can they ignore the behaviour of electorate while doing so.India will need to find a solution to this problem and it will take its own sweet time to do so.
While money power and muscle power continue to plague elections, still it does not mean that if one wants to fight an election, he can’t fight an election.In both the constituencies, where I was an Observer, I saw massive number of candidates standing for the elections.In one constituency, 20 candidates were standing for the elections.Out of them one was an NRI trying to experiencing Indian democracy, another was software engineer trying his hand at politics and a few were fighting the elections through the way of silent campaigning. Elections are a rare opportunity when confluence of so many different ideas happen and each is seen competing for their acceptance in the society.It is really a rainbow moment for democracy that allows so many ideas to survive parallely even if not all can win at the same time.
After my experience, I can only say that we are a very healthy society maturing at a steady pace.Our institutions continue to play the vital role despite all the pressure and our politicians continue to display tolerance and respect for institutions despite the intense competition they have to face in elections.To some I may be appearing overly optimistic but I found no reason to be pessimistic after all peaceful and participative elections are possible only when all the stakeholders-politicians,bureaucrats and voters agree to do so.It is not a chance , it is a silent agreement that keeps the democracy moving and thriving.Therefore, we should have all the reasons to keep our faith in Indian demcocracy intact.