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Bribed voters could get 6 months in jail?

Read with interest in a newspaper this morning that Mr P Manivannan, who is the Returning Officer for Mysore is talking about tough measures to monitor misuse of Liquor and Money in Lok Sabha Elections. See this Biz Standard story: DC strict on curbing Malparctices. Some measures Mr Manivannan is talking about are

  • ... bankers will mark the serial number of currency notes randomly when heavy case is withdrawn. Poll officials and the police will search residences of voters looking for currency notes. In case the currency notes are a part of the heavy cash withdrawal by political activists or their supporters, the voter will be questioned as to how he got it. If the voter fails to provide convincing answers, he will be booked ... Bribed voters could get a jail term of six months.
  • Not in this particular story, but there is talk of keeping track of bulk liquor purchases at "wine shops" etc.

Now, why is only Mr P Manivannan talking tough here? Is he the only PR savvy babu who is 'visible' in media talking about such measures (and all this could be empty talk)? Or is he the only one taking initatives, whereas all Returning officers or DCs have the power to take serious steps to curb election time malpractices, but are not doing the best job?

Is anyone in Bangalore too doing or is suposed to do such tracking of money and liquor? Who? And how do we meet the responsible person to ask him/her about what he/she is doing?


Nareshb's picture

Small fish bear the brunt...

Looks like another case where the big fish will get away and the small fish will be harassed! Usually, bribes to voters will be in the range of Rs. 100 to Rs. 500 per vote and in some exceptional cases go up to Rs. 1000/-. Is it worthwhile to go behind these voters when most candidates spend up to 5 times the expenditure limit set by the Election commission and get away by filing false affidavits? What is Mr P Manivannan doing about such candidates and parties?

silkboard's picture

double standards?

I am not defending anyone or anything here, but do we have double standards on bribery due to our bias against neta/babu?

  • In matters of corruption in daily life, we point fingers at those who take it, and don't really discourage those who offer bribes.
  • But here, on this election malpractice thing, we are only focused on those who offer bribes.

Pursuing a strategy where you advertize heavy punishments for those who take, as well as give bribes may work better. After all, it should be easier to scare small fishes than daring the big ones, isn't it!?

One more point. Since we have secret ballots in place, how does handing out money or booze really guarantee votes? If I am a drunkard, I would probably collect a bottle from each party, and yet, go vote for my favorite independent of the day. Isn't it?

Or is it that the "booth agents" of political parties track and keep tabs on votes, and pick out bribed voters at random for 'punishment' if they end up 'defying the whip'?

Nareshb's picture

Re: double standards?

Agreed that there should not be double standards, but to what extent can the administration stretch itself? My concern was that the administration may be focusing more on the voters and let the bigger culprits get away! Yes, creating awareness and advertising will certainly help :)

idontspam's picture

I agree with the approach...

...that bribe takers need to be punished. My only request is that it be made a non bailable offence with the term in jail be proportional to the amount taken as bribe and that it be applied to all walks of life especially to government and city administration departments.

Rithesh's picture

Dont blame the poor people

I completely disagree with the approach. It is like telling a hungry tiger not to eat a goat in front of it.

Many of the people who are lured are either slum dwellers or the poor labor class in the villages. Considering the poverty that they are in, they will take any money that is offered to them.

@silkboard - your observation about the secret ballot system not guaranteeing the vote of the bribed voter is perfect. I have seen how this works in villages and slums - it is not that only one of the candidates distributes money/liquor/sarees - instead almost all the main candidates indulge in this act of distributing money/liquor/sarees. This is a perfect case of "Tragedy of Commons".

Just because one of the candidates distributes money/liquor/sarees - others are also forced to do the same. If all candidates agree not to distribute money/liquor/sarees - the overall voting patter will still remain the same. But obviously no one wants to take chances.

If you ask me - i am actually happy about this whole thing. Atleast during these times the black monies of these politicians come out and gets distributed among the poor.

Yes this system might screw up the chances of a honest, clean candidate.. aah but "honest, clean" and "candidate" is just another oxymoron :)
silkboard's picture

poverty the excuse, and is it really a 'bribe'

Rithesh, your point about poor folks getting "lured" is probably right. But justifying the "bribe taking" because you are poor - its arguable if that is good enough excuse. A clerk clearing your land records at Sub registrar office uses the same "excuse" though in a different setup and system - saar, just give me some "drops", after all you have the ocean (lakhs to spare to buy the plots). Many times, people just offer bribes without being asked for it.

However, I will like to argue, that when there is gaurantee of secret ballot (you make sure that voters always have the option of not "giving in"), offering money/booze is not really illegal. The "bribe" has little chance of influencing an outcome. It is, at best a "gift". "Bribing" is when you can prove that your "bribe" actually influenced a favorable outcome, isn't it? In here, you can never prove it, because nobody has the right to ask you who exactly you voted for. I think not even the courts.


navshot's picture

There is a problem...

SB, Rithesh,

I don't agree with your views that the problem is insignificant - I mean atleast that's what it sounds like when I read your posts. From what I understand, its mostly like this: At first, a smart politician learnt to "buy" votes by distributing liquor, clothes, notes, etc. Then others caught up too. But in order to out-smart the other, they started pumping more money. After years of this practice, we have reached a point where one needs crores of rupees even to have a small chance of winning. This is the reality, whether you like it or not. And as you guessed, that's one of the main root causes of corruption. If you have 10,000 crores, you can run a regional party. If you have 1,000 crores, you can be a CM, if you have 100 crores, you can dream of winning a seat. So, its natural for those in power to accumulate money so that they can fund their next elections and also "grow" in the political hierarchy.

Now, we can debate how to get the politicians out of this vicious cycle.

-- navshot

-- navshot
silkboard's picture

Not saying its insignificant, but

Not saying its insignificant, but pointing out two angles to work on the problem:

  • Working on the bribe taking aspect may work better - make people fearful of accepting money, liquor, clothes etc. Once EC talks tough and puts bribe giver as well as the taker behind bars in a few cases, the 'fear' may spread.
  • Spreading awareness about secret ballot may alos help, parties may realize that they may not be getting their money's worth.

Is #2 being enforced (rather promised) uniformly everywhere, I mean in rural areas as well? What I have 'heard' is that goons of parties usually track the trend for their assigned "booths". They'd know the trend - who did the majority in the area vote for? If they spent a lot of money in that area, but the trends have gone against their party, the goons would go back and harass those who took money/liquor etc from them. This harassment activity, BTW, happens in the middle of the election day as well.

[This 'gyan' is back from experience watching an election in Bihar, which, many say is the state where these electoral malpractices have been perfected and then exported to other regions in toned-down forms.]

Basically, sermons or empty threats from EC and media, or appeals and petitions from courts or intelligentsia are not the way to fix this problem. Devising scalable and practical deterrants to malpractice "process" is the way to work on them.

swamy's picture

accounting for all the money?

EC makes all candidates account for all election spending, correct? So why does EC not do something to track election time black money also? How hard it is?

  • During election time, make PAN or Voter ID card mandatory for cash withdrawls (account holder also, plus whoever comes to collect cash also).
  • Tell all parties to give list of their members, with PAN card or Voter Id Card number
  • We can add up cash withdrawls for all parties in all areas

Something to get started.

Best is to ban cash during election time. Tell banks to only give cash cards or special coupons or currency during election time. aha, what majaa if all black money can be tracked!

Rithesh's picture

3 quarters of the country will be in the jail!!!

I dont consider this as an insignificant problem - very serious one infact. Your observations are very true and indeed very sad - to be a politician all you need is good financial muscle. And to gain more financial muscle he has to indulge in more corruption. A dangerous vicious circle.

We as country are not know to follow rules - even if such a rule (which punishes the receiver of these "gifts") comes into force, practically it can never be implemented. I have seen how this happens in my native place, they go to every house and distribute "gifts" openly - its an open secret, the police get their cuts and maintain their silence. How many people can be arrested/prosecuted.

Ultimately the success of any law depends on how well it is enforced or rather how efficient are the person in charge. Manivannan, Mysore DC did a great job to curb this practice during the last elections - unfortunately there are very few people like that.

Enforcing the current law which places the blame on the person distributing the money is more practical and can be very effective since we have to deal with a small set of people. The EC should be more strong in their actions - they need to dismiss candidates indulging in these acts, examples should be set, fear of stringent action should be induced. But the bureaucrats will eventually have to report to these corrupt politicians - the problem is everyone wants to be in the good books of all politicians.

It is disheartening - i dont see any straight forward solution. I work with a clean, honest, well qualified (may be over qualified), aspiring politician who is planning to contest in the coming elections. Sadly the only thing that he lacks is the money power - and may be because of that, he may not get a ticket from his party forget wining it.

If there is one thing that i admire about the US, that is with little or no personal wealth, you can still win elections - as long as that happens, there is always hope of things changing. We on the other side, seam to be moving in the other direction - we (read parties) give more prominence to money than his social credentials.

One other problem is the current spending limits - they are absurd (it is 15 lakhs i suppose) - it just encourages use of black money. In the last election a candidate from bangalore spent close to 35 crores. Candidates and parties should be encouraged to raise money publicly and openly - they should be asked to disclose every detail of how they got money and where they spent it.

But what ever it is, on the positive side, i see the elections bringing some good economic activity - hopefully all the spending will help us in this recovery from the recession.
Naveen's picture

Clamp on Modes of Campaigning


The style of campaigning in our country is somewhat ridiculous & turns to nothing short of a blame game & cheap gimmicks by each of the parties.

If the EC could come up with a further list of dos & donts for the mode/s of campaigning, it might result in some improvements. Seshan, as Election Commissioner brought about many changes during his tenure, but more needs to be done now.

To discourage the use of 'gifts' & 'presents' to buy votes, EC should restrict campaigning only through TVs & the Media & arrange for parties to publicly debate together - similar to what most of the TV channels are now doing. Site visits by various parties must be strictly restricted, particularly during the run-up to elections. Policing better by the EC will help in stemming this menace of using money to buy votes.

I dont think it is correct to punish only the bribe-taker. The bribe-giver is equally at fault in all forms of bribing. Bribes, or 'gifts' offered to get votes is usually from the powerful politician to the less fortunate, poor individuals who pounce on the opportunity. In this case, the bribe giver is to be blamed more than the ones who are fighting to make ends meet.

I wonder how one can justify a rule where only the poor 'gift' takers are at fault.

idontspam's picture

Poor Vs Evil

I am surprised that, most people think, when the citizen takes the bribe he is poor and innocent (poor he may be) but when a people in govt take it from the same poor and innocent people they are the evil monsters. Arent the motivations and intents the same in both cases? Shouldnt we recognize all bribes the same?

Rithesh's picture

IDS - I disagree with you

I strongly disagree with your views. We are talking of real poor people - poor in absolute terms. Probably this money that they get will give them a weeks/months ration, it might be their only saree for a whole year, it might be the only plate of biriyani that they will have till the next elections (oh by the way biriyani along with liqor is a hot favorite on the gifts list). When such is the situation, you cant blame them if they accept those gifts. Why do you want to make an example of these helpless people, it is more easy to catch the big fishes - it is just that no one tries to catch them.

And more over, these gifts dont actually translate to votes, as SB pointed out we still have secret ballot to save us and also most candidates indulge in this art of distributing gifts - so any particular preference to a one candidate is negated.

But let me categorically state it - i am not supporting this horrid practice, all i am saying is punish the right people.
idontspam's picture

Not propounding sadism

all i am saying is punish the right people.

Sure, who is not saying that? While it looks morally wrong picking on poor people, look at it this way. If it is 6 days imprisionment for 100 rupees, people who accept 1 lakh should get 6 years, those who take 1 crore should get 60 years. There is a pending list with lokauykta, now let us see how the law is going to be applied and how the poor are going to be victimised!!!

Mani300bc's picture

Response from Manivannan, Mysore.

Dear Friends,

After a long sojourn, i chanced to connect with 'Praja'. Interesting to read the comments. Let me join with you in my personal capacity and not as the DC, Mysore!

Just want the share the following points:

1. The human behavior and interactions are so complex that, no law or Act can predict all possibilities. Hence law always has certain grey areas, apart from  black (prohibit), and white (do). The grey areas are open to interpretation by the person who uses it.  This gives some flexibility to the persons like us, who enforce the law. Thus, it appears that the view taken by enforcers are different while the law is same. We, at Mysore, interpret the law in the favour of public good.

2. Election process is complex, and evolving. Though the Election commission is bringing in new restrictions and regulations, the candidates hire the best brain to circumvent them. But, yes, there have to be exceptions, and there are. Indeed at Mysore, we are in the process of disqualifying a sitting MLA on basis of false caste certificate. The number of such cases may increase in the future.

3. Lastly, press briefings during the elections by officers are required, even at the cost of being called as 'PR savvy Babu', because, the officers are the only persons who can disseminate the information regarding elections. If they don't do, then they keep the public in dark. And, we, at Mysore are sincere with our words,and already into whatever we said in the media!

So glad to see so many citizens involving themselves on civic issues. As 'silkboard' has said, "world class cities are made by world class citizens'. Hope the day is not far away!


Manivannan, P


silkboard's picture

Thanks Mani sir

First of all, thank you sir for taking the time to respond. Connecting with 'Praja' is a good idea, hope members here will try and make measured use of your time.

About point #3, I don't really want to go in anyone's bad books there :) The 'PR savvy babu' bit was only a question - are all Returning Officers taking the same strict measures, or is it left to each officer's initiative-taking stamina. It could also be that you being 'liked' by the media (business standard for sure) are covered more than others.

Actually, as you said, P being for public, PR and public engagement should be a primary job of public servants. From our experience, that is usually the case. We have rarely had an issue in getting meeting from bureaucrats and police officers here in Bangalore. Wish to hear more from all officers in a regular fashion, and in some direct fashion, because media picks and chooses but we want to hear and track everything!

Your points made good reading.

  • #1 makes sense. "Bribe vs gift" is certainly one such grey area, how does one prove things for sure!?
  • #2 - candidates hire the best brains to circumvent them - is enlightening. Hope the money "spent" in hiring them is tracked and accounted for. That's probably the only practical way to work on it.

Look forward to some action and results from your efforts - jail term for some bribed voters, and currency getting tracked to a candidate. comment guidelines

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