If Politicians Can Be Paid For Trading Votes, Why Not Us?

Posted by Gaurav Tiwari in Politics, Society
April 11, 2017

After the recently concluded assembly elections in India, independent MLAs, smaller parties have got cabinet berths in exchange for their vote in the assembly. Many sitting MLAs who joined BJP in Uttar Pradesh have also been made ministers. When MLAs exchange their votes for better privileges, why not every voter?

Case Of Independent MLA’s Becoming Ministers

A minister enjoys more privileges than an MLA. In the case of Manipur out of nine cabinet berths, BJP, with 21 MLAs, got only two, rest were given to allies and independents. In Goa, out of nine who supported the BJP, six have been given cabinet positions. In the absence of any pre-poll alliance with any of the other regional parties, it is anybody’s guess that these MLA’s gave support in exchange for the cabinet position, which offers better privileges, financial and otherwise. When representatives decide to cast their votes for better privileges, why stop ordinary voters from doing that?

People line-up for casting his vote for the Rajouri Garden Assembly by-election, in April 2017 in New Delhi. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Political Parties Sell Nominations

The BJP MP, BSP MLAs, and leaders of other major political parties have accused the party’s leadership of selling nominations. Candidates offer this money in return for the assured votes of a party’s core base, who irrespective of the candidate, vote for the party. That’s indirectly buying the vote of these committed voters. When a party is directly getting money in exchange for the votes, why not directly give the money to voters instead?

The BJP MP, BSP MLAs, and leaders of other major political parties have accused the party’s leadership of selling nominations. Candidates offer this money in return for the assured votes of a party’s core base, who irrespective of the candidate, vote for the party. That’s indirectly buying the vote of these committed voters. When a party is directly getting money in exchange for the votes, why not directly give the money to voters instead?

Industrialists In Rajya Sabha

Many prominent industrialists like Rahul Bajaj, Vijay Mallya, Subash Chandra, etc. have been the member of Rajya Sabha, supported by regional parties. In the last 12 years, all four MPs nominated by the JD(S) for Rajya Sabha seats have been businessmen. Besides, noted lawyers, who otherwise charge hefty fees for every appearance, representing party presidents or CMs, etc. have been nominated to Rajya Sabha. State Legislative Council seats, which are decided by the party leadership, are increasingly won by millionaires. Industrialists help many of these parties financially. When a strength of a party depends on the number of its supporters, why not pass on the benefits directly to the supporters?

Faith In Markets

None of the parties, at least publicly, doubt the wisdom of voters. After winning an election, this faith in the wisdom of electors to separate worthy from bogus strengthens.

Also, India is peculiar when it comes to the economic policies of its major national parties. Except, increasingly weak Left parties, all the main political parties in India believe in the market economy. As explained by Milton Friedman in his book “Capitalism and Freedom”, a free private enterprise exchange economy is where society is organised through voluntary exchange i.e. an exchange where both parties enter the transaction voluntarily and informed.

Any decision to vote a candidate is an informed choice, as reaffirmed by all political parties, and voluntary as there is no coercion to vote a candidate. Also, candidates are free to engage with a voter or not, as they already do it. When both the parties are engaging voluntarily, why not let the market economy decide which candidate to elect directly?

A man hands out money as supporters celebrate election results in front of the headquarters of the Congress Party on May 16, 2009 in New Delhi. (Photo by Keith Bedford/Getty Images)

Help In Spurring Demand

After demonetization, India is suffering from lack of demand in the economy. Keynes, in his book – The General Theory Of Employment, Interest And Money – suggested that in a depression, when there is a practical difficulty in spending on infrastructure, as our leaders claim that projects are stalled because of land acquisition problem, Treasury can fill old bottles with banknotes and rely on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig up notes again. We can similarly, get people to come out and vote and get paid in return.

After demonetization, India is suffering from lack of demand in the economy. Keynes, in his book – The General Theory Of Employment, Interest And Money – suggested that in a depression, when there is a practical difficulty in spending on infrastructure, as our leaders claim that projects are stalled because of land acquisition problem, Treasury can fill old bottles with banknotes and rely on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig up notes again. We can similarly, get people to come out and vote and get paid in return.

In the recently concluded UP state assembly election, political parties spent, by some estimates, a staggering Rs 5500 crore to convince voters. For a total electorate of around 14 crores, that’s about INR 400 per user. In a state where capita income is Rs 40,373 p.a., that’s about four days’ income. Wouldn’t it be better to give this money to the voters directly?

Currently, cash for a vote is illegal and a punishable offence in Indian Penal Code. However, for a poor country like ours, where the bulk of the population is engaged in the unorganised sector, many suffer economic losses due to holidays on voting day. And when they haven’t gained much in the political process, it is incumbent upon the political parties to compensate them, at least for their votes.

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