The Election Commission of India should have shown economic dynamism in a fast evolving democracy like India. Had it updated itself, it would not have tried to artificially keep the election expenditure under control to make it moderate and affordable to people. It has ended up promoting a ghastly culture of manufacturing accounts and telling brazenly lies to the people. Even Student Union elections in major cities cost more than the permitted expenses to a candidate for the Lok Sabha. The EC is possessed of the discredited ideas like “socialism”, included in the Constitution of India with great fanfare by Indira Gandhi to paint herself and her political party Congress as the messiah of the poor (she even gave the slogan: garibi hatao, meaning remove poverty). That mind set pulled India down from a developing economy to an under developed economy. Then, as now, Indian government has shown consistently extreme contempt and disrespect to entrepreneurship, business and wealth. The unreasonably low expenditure ceiling on general elections is a standing testimony to that distorted vision of money or the wealthy. There is no change in public statements of the political leaders of most parties, even as there are ten times more millionaires in politics than there were in trade, industry or business up till 1950, when the Constitution came in to force. Even a diehard socialist politician would not swallow the tag of a poor person, for he is no less than a 100 million net worth individual. It is different if he is compelled to dress up his accounts because the law refuses to change, the people’s perception of socialism refuses to change, the Election Commission of India refuses to admit that democracy can’t survive on a poor diet of ideology of socialism and hence, needs a nutritious diet of solid election expenditure. It is not understood why all the concerned people and authorities hate expensive elections. They should not. Rather than putting unnecessary ceilings on expenses, all of them should encourage maximum expenditure. I will explain the logic.
After the great economic meltdown of the United States of America, President Obama announced a 700 billion dollar stimulus package, which probably rose to 1 trillion dollars. As against such far sighted economic policy, the election commission of India has repeatedly indulged in “economic shutdown” exercise with gay abundance. It applies the strict and harsh moral economic code: governments can’t spend on people oriented schemes (except with its permission!), which paralyses all economic activity. Government is the biggest single corporate entity in terms of expenditure on buying goods and services. But the EC dicta end up freezing all economic activity. This causes recession and consequential loss of income, especially to the working class. The daily loss comes to hundreds of billions worth in rupees.
As if this economic blow was not enough, the Election Commission’s ill advised economic morality dries up other lucrative but seasonal opportunity of high turnover by putting uncalled for ceilings on expenditure by candidates, political parties and their sysmpathisers. Why should it be any business of the EC to watch, regulate, supervise and control the election related expenditure of anybody, unless it is unlawful payment for purchasing votes? But that is never the case. Elections come only in five years. They generate enough economic activity to sustain the working class for the next 5 years without worrying about inflation, deflation, stagflation or onion prices exceeding rupees 100 a kilogram. Doesn’t the EC know it? Perhaps it has never looked at the economic catastrophe its mental blocks of the socialist kind bring to bear upon the poor economy of India. Elections create work for the unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled workers. It is seasonal but paying job work, for which preparations for production and distribution in time begin several months in advance like those for Christmas, Diwali or other festivals. Once the expenditure ceiling goes, such wonderful economic activity can be organized more efficiently and in a more organized manner.
The Election Commission of India, like the Finance Minister of India, however, keeps a hawk’s eye on even the slightest opportunity for economic benefit. Take the latest example of its vigor in putting a clamp on social media, which so far was not included in the election related expenditure. In this age of information revolution & knowledge society in the global village, the EC would like us to use archaic election tools like rallies or door-to-door visits! What use is technology in such a world? Why should it worry about the social media? The social media addicts are smart enough to understand political ideologies, election manifestoes and candidates and need no supervision of the EC. The others, who are not social media users, do not need it in any case. Why should the EC bother, unless it thinks it gives undue advantage to one candidate over another. But such thinking is flawed and betrays the lack of training of the government staff in handling social media themselves. On the contrary, the EC should encourage maximum use of social media, television and newspapers, so that less inconvenience is caused to the people by political rallies, which cause disruption in all public services like law & order, power supply, movement of goods & people etc. Schools and examinations are disrupted by the noise, hustle & bustle of electioneering and movement of millions of men for election duty. Instead of being an invigorating, hilarious and rejuvenating exercise, the outdated mode of elections and codes regulating them results in deaths of hundreds of people and injury to thousands. Elections in India are really “fought” not “contested”. It is about time the Election Commission walks in to the present century, abandoning its old practices and codes of the mid twentieth Century- an era afflicted by the aftermath of the WW-II and the rigours of the deadly cold war. We are now capable of handling all the demands of the technologically equipped knowledge society of the 21st century. The EC should encourage maximum use of social media and all forms of communication rather than impeding it. It should invalidate all outdated codes and concentrate on free and fair elections in one day with the help of technology. The results can be declared the same day, if the management of election is handed over to the technologically trained personnel instead of retired civil servants shown favours post retirement.
The Election Commission must stimulate the economy. It should encourage maximum expenditure. It should think like the Americans who pumped in trillions of dollars to support their falling economy. An election in India is an economic opportunity worth more than 50000 crores of rupees. If the EC were to lift all expenditure ceiling, it is likely to treble. It hardly needs superhuman economists to visualize the jobs such an activity will create, the boost it will give to production and services and above all revenues to the government. The only difference would be: what is happening stealthily will happen openly. But the result would be very healthy- the parallel economy will dry up and real economy will emerge; black money will not remain attractive anymore and white money will be channelled in to the economy, and; above all the public and political behaviour will improve morally.
Isn’t it enough for the EC? If it means free, fair and cost effective elections, it must think afresh on these lines. It must be the catalyst for economic change. It should not be the why and wherefore of economic shutdown, business freeze or political festivities of the longest kind anywhere in the world! Be cheerful and let everyone else be cheerful.