SIVAGANGA: Voters are the kings in a democracy and hence they should not beg, said a popular actor in an awareness video released by the Election Commission. He was referring to voter bribing. “But my wife asks whether they (government officials) are not demanding bribe from us even for a simple signature? So why should we not take it for our votes,” asks M Karuppaiah of Naattarasan Kottai, a village near Sivaganga.
Tamil Nadu has in recent elections earned the dubious distinction of widespread voter bribing. Now it has almost become common knowledge that voter bribing is one of the assured ways to win an election in the State. The blame is placed as much on the people, as on political parties. But people in the State’s hinterland point to the plain reality. Honesty is no longer a virtue reflected by the government machinery, especially at the lower rungs with which people interact. So, why expect it from people alone? voters ask.
R Senthil, who is the community head of Kandanipatti village, says, “They (politicians) are taking our money. So they are simply returning it to us during elections. This is how many are seeing it.” The presence of Election Commission officials is felt everywhere in the highways, despite the sultry summer. Almost every vehicle is checked. But the villagers are confident that the politicians are capable of somehow delivering the money to them. Almost every villager seems to know the other village where recently cash was recently distributed and they say they will not turn it down when they too are offered money.
KR Gnanam, who runs a roadside eatery on the outskirts of Sivaganga town is one of the few who is worried about the trend. “People are taking bribes for votes. What can be done?” she says after placing a serious of complaints against the way politicians in the country are conducting themselves.
Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency is seeing a high profile battle between Congress’s Karti Chidambaram and BJP’s H Raja. There are a total of 26 candidates in the fray in the constituency. So, will the winner be the one who manages to bribe voters the most? Not everyone seems to be in agreement on that. “It is a sin if we take money from a person and not vote for him,” says Karuppaiah. But not many feel they must be so honest towards politicians. For instance, A Muthu, a shepherd in the barren lands between villages around Sivaganga, says people don’t feel any obligation to vote only for those who give them a bribe. “Why should we vote for them? They cheat us after taking our votes. So, we can also cheat them after taking their money.” he says.
Other common question posed by the villagers is: what to do when more than one party has given them bribes? Some said they solve the problem by one dividing the votes within the family between the parties that has given them money. Many said they do not feel any obligation to vote only for the party that has given them bribes. The money they took from parties does not comes in the way when ultimately deciding whom to vote. But the common man in the villages has a clear message: they are the real victims of lack of honesty in the government machinery and if we have to stop this cycle, the starting point should be the government, not them, voters point out.