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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In sweltering heat, Tamil Nadu reels under election fever. What is a Banana Republic ?

Have you heard of hard and soft money ?  The mercury is soaring and it is getting hotter in Chennai.  It is not only the heat that is felt but the pitch of electoral battle…..  quite often we hear references of ‘banana republic’.  -  ?  Here is something on real bananas  - 

We take great pride in being a Republic – the biggest constitutional democratic republic – a rule of people, for the people, by the people.  But are all these things real ??  - we know the answer  !!     

Tamilnadu has been reeling under election fever – elections to be 14th Legislative assembly is to be held on 13th April 2011  to elect members from 234 constituencies – all nook and corner of the State.   The results curiously will be released only on 13th May 2011.   Going by the latest Census report the state has a population of more than 7.2 crores, ranks 7th in terms of most populous states and literacy rate is 80.33 %

The Constitution of India embodies certain basic principles, one of the most important one of which is popular sovereignty – the commitment  to hold regular free and fair elections. These elections determine the composition of the Government, such elections on the basis of universal suffrage have to take place at least once every five years.  For ensuring free and fair elections, an Election Commission was set up for the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation for, and conduct of, the elections. The major laws passed by the Parliament are the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952, the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Further, Rules have been framed to govern the conduct of elections, viz., the Conduct of the Elections Rules, 1961. The powers vested in the Election Commission under Article 324 of the Constitution are supplemented further by Acts of Parliament, namely the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the Presidential and Vice Presidential Act, 1952, etc.

Thus there is a duly constituted authority for the conduct of Elections – the Chief Election Commissioner.    EC recently directed the State Govt to suspend a RDO of Madurai East constituency.  The term ‘major penalty’ could include dismissal from the services also.   EC has been active all over the State and vehicles are being checked at various points for unaccounted cash that allegedly is being transported for distribution to voters as inducement.   There is another news item in a leading daily stating that the EC had informed the Madras High Court that political parties were using police jeeps to transport cash that is believed to be distributed among voters before the polls in Tamil Nadu.

Melur, a municipal town on way to Kallazhagar temple in Madurai was in news for wrong reasons.  There were reports that a tehsildar who is the Asst Returning officer and part of a flying squad was allegedly assaulted by Union Minister.  Then came the U – the same person stating he and the squad  entered the temple wearing footwear and the local objected to them.   Earlier, a case was registered against Union Minister and South strongman  on a complaint from the Tehsildhar for offences under the IPC including unlawful assembly, waylaying and assaulting government servant and violating prohibitory orders.  According to police, they have so far seized over Rs 25 crore in cash and valuables during vehicle checks conducted in the state.  Going by the reports thus far close to 3000 cases have been registered arising out of vehicle checking and close to 50000 cases have been reported of violation of election code of conduct. 

In what could be described as mother of all such searches, the RDO and returning of officer Ms S Sangeetha acted on a tip off on 5th Mar 11 morning which startled one and all.  Acting without eve a full fledged police team, she was able to secure a huge cache of cash – seizure of currency notes worth  5.11  crore – there are reports of this money being traced to another Minister who is contesting from Trichy. 

Whither Elections and the ordinary common man who tends to think that elections exhibit the might of his ilk and that the ink on his fore finger is going to determine the fate of the State in the ensuing period.  In US  – hard money is often the political donations that are regulated by law through the Federal Election Commision.   Soft money is the money donated to political parties in a way that leaves the contribution unregulated. 

Banana republic is a pejorative term which describes a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture – which could be banana plantation itself, to go with the name.    The land would be ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, corrupt politico-economic plutocracy.  The term would enote a servile dictatorship that abets kickbacks, exploiting the large scale plantation and its cultivators.   It is a state of collusion between the State and favoured enterprises whereby profits derived from private exploitation of public wealth – the public increasing their debts and turning poorer when the select elite turn richer and richer.  Such States could enjoy the support of External countries but manipulates its own people and remains unaccountable to the Nation.  A wily set fleecing the system allowing the trunk of the national tree to rot and eventually crash……………
Understand that in New Zealand, the Electoral Commission is a governmental body responsible for administering certain aspects of the country's electoral system. It is an independent Crown entity, not part of any larger department or Ministry, and was established under the Electoral Act 1993.    It primarily registers political parties, allocates broadcasting funds, supervises financial declarations and ensures public education on how elections work. 

Political Parties are given state funding for any broadcasting they conduct in an election campaign.  The Commission is responsible for dividing money between various parties taking into account party’s membership, current no. of MPs, previous election performance and current polling etc.,

At a time when it is open that EC or any other constituted body is unable to control electoral expenditure or regulate the code of conduct, would it not be a fair idea to follow the NZ model of state funding of political parties or making the parties pay the money to EC and then routing them for their expenditure through EC !!!

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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