ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Vote Buying in Jharkhand

Stopped this time, what change is possible to prevent moneyed interests from buying seats?

In a decision which has had just one precedent in 1992, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has countermanded the 2012 elections (two seats) to the Rajya Sabha in Jharkhand. The decision followed a seizure of a large amount of cash from a relative of an independent candidate, which was to be apparently used to buy votes from Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). This incident came amidst other reports about MLAs being bribed to cast their votes in favour of one or the other candidate. The ECI’s order was challenged in the Jharkhand High Court by the Congress candidate who fancied a win because of the fractious divisions in the assembly. But the court has dismissed the petition and has ordered an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Earlier, in the run-up to the nominations, there had been a huge ruckus about the d ecision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which supports the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the state – to nominate a non-resident Indian businessman as one of the candidates. The BJP was ultimately forced to withdraw its support for its own nominee.

The events of 2012 are not new to Jharkhand. In elections from the state to the upper house of Parliament over the past few years, quite a few candidates who have never been residents of Jharkhand and are usually businessmen or corporate executives have been party nominees in Rajya Sabha polls. Those among these candidates who have won have later shown no commitment to addressing the concerns of the residents of the state and have instead used their positions to enhance their business interests or serve their corporate bosses. The welcome environment provided by the legislators of the major parties – the JMM, Congress and the BJP – to moneybags has emboldened many such businessmen to move heaven and earth to get nominations. This also highlights the change in the modus operandi of business interests, from pursuing their needs through connections and lobbying Members of Parliament to directly getting elected to the upper house by bribing state legislators.

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