Model bribery

But some complaints are genuine and call for effective intervention from the Election Commission. The commission has been alert to the possibility of misuse of office and power by governments and violations of the code in other ways and has intervened effectively in many cases. But it can go only to an extent since the code is not legally binding. In any case thee are various ways of violation some of which are too subtle to pinpoint.

There are charges of violation of the code against ministers in West Bengal. These are not very grave. But a decision by the Kerala government to extend its Rs 2 a kg rice scheme, which was originally targetted at BPL ration card holders, to the APL class is a gross violation of the code.

The scheme for the BPL group was announced before the code came into force but its extension was announced later. The state election commission had issued orders to stop implementation of the scheme but the high court has overruled it. The court has erred badly in its decision and the issue needs to be examined by the supreme Court. Otherwise, this will create a bad precedent which will be followed by many governments in future.

The offer of freebies and goodies to voters by the DMK in Tamil Nadu through its election manifesto does not strictly come under the scope of an election code of conduct. But the party’s promises, and its actions in the past by way of fulfillment of promises will corrupt the electoral system and distort the voters’ judgment than any violation of code. It has promised to give 35 kg of free rice per month to all families, a mixer-cum-grinder to every woman and other benefits to most classes of people.

It promised free colour television sets to poor families before the last election and has distributed over a crore of them till now. Masquerading as a social welfare measure, this is outright bribery of the electorate. Unfortunately, the line between an election promise and a corrupt poll practice has become very thin and so votes have become commodities to be purchased.

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