LUCKNOW: In a state where even ensuring an election ticket allegedly costs some candidates crores of rupees, one may well imagine the prevalence of black money in the biggest jamboree of democracy celebrated every five years. Will demonetisation check the rampant prevalence of ill-gotten money in elections due in a couple of months from now?
It’s at least a job well begun, feel a host of experts Express spoke to. But much will depend on how well various ways of money laundering are checked.
“Those who use black money to win elections will do anything to woo voters. Since unaccounted money is an important part of elections, those pitching in will start distributing it right away. As per provision, notes can be converted till December 30, 2016, so the voter can avail of this facility easily,” Trilochan Sastry of the Association of Democratic Reforms said.
According to sources in the Financial Intelligence Unit, in Uttar Pradesh alone, unaccounted money worth Rs 500 crore was used during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Besides, there was a sudden rise in bank transactions across the state between September 2013 and April 2014. Of approximately Rs 300 crore seized, about one-sixth of the amount was from the state.
According to an ADR report, most parties show bulk of their funding from donations given by small unnamed “benefactors” with less than Rs 20,000 contribution each. The percentage of such unnamed contributors was over 90 per cent in case of the BSP. Both the SP and BSP have prepared a war chest of Rs 500 crore each for the polls, according to their own submission to the Election Commission. The BJP and the Congress clearly would be no less prepared. “As per the ADR report, the BJP and BSP have the highest number of candidates with money power. Demonetisation will certainly affect poll expenses but the impact will depend on the financial strength of the candidates,” said Sudhir Panwar, a farmer leader and social activist.
A candidate can’t spend more than Rs 70 lakh in a Lok Sabha election and Rs 28 lakh in Assembly polls. However, this limit is observed only in exceptional cases. Over 2,200 accounts of candidates and their associates were under observation during the 2014 elections. Arvind Mohan, a Lucknow-based economist, said, “At present the currency circulation is to the tune of Rs 18 lakh crore of which around Rs 13.5 lakh crore roughly is in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Now demonetisation will take away the sheen and shine of elections.”