June 19, 2021
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‘Cash For Votes A Way Of Political Life In South India’

‘Cash For Votes A Way Of Political Life In South India’

The Hindu revelations of India Cables through WikiLeaks continues. A revealing cable sent on May 13, 2009 to the State Department by Frederick J. Kaplan, Acting Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate-General in Chennai, outed by the Hindu says:

Bribes from political parties to voters, in the form of cash, goods, or services, are a regular feature of elections in South India. Poor voters expect bribes from political candidates, and candidates find various ways to satisfy voter expectations. From paying to dig a community well to slipping cash into an envelope delivered inside the morning newspaper, politicians and their operatives admitted to violating election rules to influence voters. The money to pay the bribes comes from the proceeds of fundraising, which often crosses into political corruption. Although the precise impact of bribery on voter behavior is hard to measure, it no doubt swings at least some elections, especially the close races.

Mr Kaplan sent the cable after meeting Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram, of the Congress, M. Patturajan, confidant of Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers M.K. Alagiri and former mayor of Madurai, and member of Parliament Assaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittenhadul Muslimeen. The cable details novel methods of cash distribution including

Can I get another morning paper?

The Thirumangalam campaign that Azhagiri ran for the DMK was notable for how the money was distributed, in addition to the amount distributed. Rather than using the traditional practice of handing cash to voters in the middle of the night, in Thirumangalam the DMK distributed money to every person on the voting roll in envelopes inserted in their morning newspapers. In addition to the money, the envelopes contained the DMK ""voting slip"" which instructed the recipient for whom they should vote. Annamalai pointed out that distributing the money with the newspapers forced everyone to receive the bribe. ""This way makes it impossible to refuse the money,"" Annamalai noted. Patturajan confirmed the newspaper distribution, but questioned its efficiency. He pointed out that giving bribes to every voter wasted money on committed anti-DMK voters, but conceded that it was an effective way to ensure the bribes reached every potential persuadable voter.

Read the full cable, and the story based on the cable here.

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