More than half of India’s lawmakers running for re-election to Parliament reported a 300 per cent increase in their assets since the last ballot five years ago, a survey conducted by a corruption watchdog said.
Candidates in the world’s largest democracy must declare their financial assets under the Election Commission rules meant to promote transparency and probity in public life.
Declarations filed by 300 Members of the outgoing Parliament showed an average increase of 27.5 million rupees ($555,000) in assets, including homes, cash and jewellery, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said. More than 40 per cent of India’s 1.1 billion population live in poverty on less than $1.25 a day.
“Politics is a fairly remunerative profession,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, a founding member of ADR, which in 1999 sought changes to election laws to make candidates declare their assets. “There is a fair amount of corruption in politics across the world, and India is no exception. There is really no knowing the extent of it, but like God, you know it is present,” he said.
While no firm figures are available, analysts say political parties have spent many millions of dollars in the election, despite an economic slowdown.
Despite stringent election rules, a “money for votes” ethos still thrives in India, with politicians dishing out cash, food and liquor, a think tank survey found.
About a fifth of people surveyed in a poll said they had received cash for votes in State and general elections in the past ten years, the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) said.
”Politics is the mother of all corruption in India,” said Bhaskara Rao, head of CMS, which conducted the poll among 18,000 people in 19 states.
“Money for votes is not limited to poor or rural voters, but a national phenomenon spread across rural-urban, rich-poor divides and different age groups and educational levels.”
Much of this money is not accounted for and far surpasses the spending limit of 2.5 million rupees per candidate, with some candidates spending at least ten times that amount, he said.
Television exit polls show that neither the Congress nor the BJP will win a clear majority. Both are trying to secure new allies, increasing the leverage of smaller players.
Such jostling for partners inevitably triggers allegations of money changing hands.
“The link between business and politics is worse now because the stakes are higher: there is so much uncertainty, businesses are hedging their bets and parties are going all out,” Rao said.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)