As the Election Commission (EC) completes another round of elections with record polling in several states, it is not easy to ignore a growing paradox in India’s electoral process. Election after election is now conducted with the kind of predictable efficiency not always managed even by some advanced democracies. However difficult the terrain, the voting process typically takes place quite smoothly. Results are widely accepted, even when the margins are wafer-thin. Yet the process is not without serious flaws. It’s no secret that votes are bought and that some voters believe it’s their right to receive liquor from political parties.
The instinctive response is to demand that the EC tighten the norms and enforce them. In fact, the EC has had considerable success in removing serious shortcomings in the actual voting process. Booth-capturing, once common, has largely been done away with. But success is still some distance away when it comes to tackling behind-the-scenes activities such as cornering votes by distributing liquor or cash to voters the night before an election. The EC hasn’t yet found a way to keep a thirsty voter from the liquor lavished on him by a candidate or a political party.