In case you have not realised it yet, in one form or the other you are witnessing history unfold. Never before have 900 million (90 crore) people attained the power to decide who will govern them for the next five years. The 2019 Lok Sabha election in India is historic not just for its sheer size (being the world’s largest democratic election till date), but also for its contribution to deepening democracy in the context of expanding universal adult franchise to an unprecedented scale.
But history is often punctuated with contradictions – some more diametrically opposite than the rest.
Take the 2019 Lok Sabha election for example. No doubt it’s the world’s largest democratic exercise, but it is also true that this democratic exercise is punctured by the flood of daily reports chronicling the use of money power by political parties to influence voters.
WHY DOES IT MATTER: A FLASHBACK TO 2014
Data of the Election Commission of India show that Rs 2,99,94,30,804 (that’s nearly Rs 300 crore) in cash was seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. This was besides the 1,61,84,508 litre of liquor and 17,07,04,08,671 mg (17,070 kg) of drugs/narcotics (worth hundreds of crores of rupees) that was seized from different parts of the country.
These numbers would make more sense if we simplify them in these terms:
1) The cash seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha election was equivalent to 75 per cent of the donation received in cash at the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi in 2011.
2) The quantity of drugs/narcotics seized was roughly the same as the weight of three adult male Asiatic elephants and a baby elephant put together. (An adult male Asiatic elephant weighs nearly 5,000 kg.)
3) The liquor seized in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections would easily fill nearly six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Five years on, things have only worsened. Political parties have sharpened their skills and are today excelling at using cash, liquor, drugs, among others, to influence voters during elections.
In the past 23 days (March 26-April 17), Rs 6,94,49,50,000 (Rs 694.495 crore) in cash has been seized in India. This amount is 131.54 per cent more than the total cash seized in 2014 (Rs 299.943 crore).
Comparing the data for 2014 with the data for this year, we find that the total quantity of liquor seized this year will soon surpass the quantity seized in 2014 Lok Sabha election.
For drugs/narcotics, the seized quantity in just these 23 days is already 204.21 per cent more than the total quantity seized in 2014.
This trend shows that with more than a month left for the Lok Sabha election to end, this amount is set to rise exponentially. (Voting for last phase of 2019 Lok Sabha election will be on May 19 and results will be declared on May 23.)
WHAT CAN WE DO?
IndiaToday.in has built a daily tracker (above) which will provide you a daily updated data on seizures made during these elections across the country.
The reason why we are using data only from March 26 and onwards is because from that day the Election Commission of India started releasing daily reports on seizures.
These seizures are on account of politicians possessing/distributing/transporting illegal cash, narcotics and drugs, distributing liquor, gold and silver items and a host of freebies and gifts among people to lure them to vote in their favour. These activities are prohibited under the Representation of Peoples Act.
For your convenience, we will also breakdown the data and simplify it using interactive digital tools to give you state and political party-specific information.
LET’S BREAKDOWN THE NUMBERS:
According to the Election Commission of India, as on April 17, 2019, cash and goods (drugs, liquor, gold, silver etc) worth Rs 26,28,43,20,000 (Rs 2,628.43 crore) have been seized across the country. This boils down to more than Rs 100 crore every day.
Most of this amount comes from seized drugs/narcotics (worth Rs 1,151.73 crore), followed by cash (Rs 694.495 crore), precious metal like gold, silver etc (worth Rs 512.334 crore), liquor (worth Rs 218.305 crore) and freebies/gifts (worth Rs 51.56 crore).
For our elephant, swimming pool and cash donation analogy, we find that:
1) The quantity of drugs/narcotics seized so far (51,373.724 kg) is roughly equal to the weight of 10 adult male Asiatic elephants.
2) The liquor seized would fill four-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
3) The cash seized is nearly Rs 280 crore more than the cash donated at Sai Baba temple in Shirdi in 2011.
Another example that will help understand the size of this total amount is the fact that the amount seized so far in this election is already 70 per cent of the amount that the Government of India spent in conducting the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Government expenditure for conducting 2014 Lok Sabha election was Rs 3,870.34 crore.THE NATIONAL PICTURE:
An analysis of daily seizure reports shows that while cash, drugs, liquor, gold etc. are being seized every day across the country, there are five states that contribute more than 70 per cent to this.
As on April 17, 2019, Gujarat’s share in cash and seized goods was Rs 543.84 crore. This was followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs 514.57 crore), Delhi (Rs 390.3 crore), Andhra Pradesh (Rs 216.34 crore) and Punjab (Rs 209.4 crore).
The data analysis also shows that political parties in different states behaved differently in terms of using cash, liquor, drugs, gold/silver and freebies to influence voters.
In states like Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi, the highest contribution comes from the seizure of drugs and narcotics. In Tamil Nadu, political parties are relying more on distributing gold, silver and other valuables to influence voters. And in Andhra Pradesh, cash is the main contributor to the total amount seized in the state.
DRUGS: GUJARAT, DELHI & PUNJAB ON TOO HIGH A LADDER
Between March 26 and April 17, cash and goods worth Rs 543.84 crore have been seized in Gujarat. But nearly 96 per cent of this amount (Rs 524.11) comes from seizure of drugs and narcotics.
In the national capital, drugs and narcotics make up more than 85 per cent (Rs 348.48 crore) of the total amount (Rs 398.40 crore) seized during these elections so far. Much of these drugs and narcotics were seized on April 10, a day before voting for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections.
What also needs to be noted is that though drugs and narcotics contribute the most to the seizure amount in Gujarat, Delhi and Punjab, in terms of quantity (kg seized), these states aren’t the leaders.
Authorities have seized 14,704 kg of drugs/narcotics in Maharashtra; 6,932 kg in Madhya Pradesh; and 18,915 kg in Uttar Pradesh.
Now, contrast this with Gujarat where the quantity of drugs/narcotics seized is 128.86 kg. This mismatch between quantity seized and its market worth suggests that the contrabands being circulated/seized in Gujarat, Delhi and Punjab are of a much superior quality than the ones being supplied elsewhere.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD IN TAMIL NADU
While politicians in Gujarat, Delhi and Punjab may like to influence voters by transcending them to a different zone, in Tamil Nadu, it’s a different ballgame altogether. Here, politicians believe in cashing on in people’s materialistic cravings manifested in the love for gold, silver and other precious metals.
This perhaps explains the fact that worth of gold, silver and other valuables seized make up nearly 57 per cent of the total seizure amount in Tamil Nadu.