Bharatiya Janata Party leader Varun Gandhi, actor-turned-politician Govinda and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav have faced the Election Commission's ire for allegedly distributing cash to voters prior to elections. But a recent survey has revealed that the practice has grown over the years.
The recent survey by a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, Centre for Media Studies, states that the menace is not limited to any single electoral belt but is prevalent in all parts of the country, including the 'literate' states. Titled 'Alarming trend of purchasing voters', the report found that Karnataka topped the country among states where voters are being bribed to cast their vote in favour of a particular political party.
It states, "The recent assembly elections in Karnataka in 2008 have set a new benchmark in purchasing votes." The bribing menace was found to be lower in Left Front-ruled states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripur.
Vote buying was rampant in highly literate states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 40 per cent of voters received money for their vote, the CMS study said. According to CMS, one fourth of the Rs 10,000 crore expenditure on the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls is likely to be spent as 'unofficial money'.
Highest distribution of money is expected in states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where nearly half of voters will be paid 'cash-for-vote' 24 hours before the polling day, it said.
The CMS used a perception, experience and estimation method to arrive at its conclusions. "Not many will admit that they have been bribed to cast their vote," it said,
"But in confidence, they would let you know if they knew someone who has taken money." The study proves that 'money for votes' is not limited to poor or rural voters but a national phenomena spread across rural-urban, rich-poor divides.
Based on a sample of 23,000 below poverty line households in 2007 and 18,000 voters in 2008 from 19 states, the survey claims that as many as 25 per cent voters received money for their votes in Delhi. The cost of Lok Sabha polls in the country, according to CMS, is set to more than double this year.
Various political parties are expected to spend about Rs 1,650 crore from their funds, which would include about Rs 1,000 crore from the two main parties -- Congress and BJP, it said. The study, which covered only assembly and Lok Sabha elections, did not cover other inducements or freebies like liquor.