money in electioneering
the 1996 elections, it got currency
faster than fire -- an independent
candidate sending gifts that represented
his election symbol to voters. They
were costly things. When the result
came out, he was loser by a wide margin.
Hearsay has it that he spent Tk 6,000
for every vote he got.
2001 saw another interesting fight
for votes. Two candidates from Dohar
engaged in a bitter fight, and voters
saw the most ugly form of colour of
2003 saw another unique event. The
High Court for the first time unseated
Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayedee of
Jammat-e-Islami from parliament for
submission of false statement of his
events only opened up the age old
question of containing black and unaccounted
for money playing role in elections.
These also reduce to dusts people's
confidence in politicians' pledges
stokes up the memory of 1991 when
before the first polls since the fall
of General Ershad all parties pledged
not to give electoral tickets to people
holding black money or those rubbing
shoulder with the dictator and raking
black money in elections is now a
tricky issue not only for Bangladesh
but for most democracies in Asia.
People making fortunes through fair
and unfair means are found ploughing
in the money to go to power. Names
like Jayalalita and Laloo Yadav Prasad
will always be linked to such black
Election Commission has formulated
several laws to curb overexpenditure
in elections. A candidate can spend
Tk 5 lakh at most for canvassing.
They have to submit their source of
income, asset statement and income
tax statement before polls campaign
kicks off. Within 15 days of polls
result being gazzetted, they have
to submit election expenses, a rule
that most MPs ignore.
such rules have their own limitations.
Under the current circumstances, not
a single candidate in a national election
can have an effective election campaign
with Tk 5 lakh. It is even truer for
the big cities like Dhaka and Chittagong
where each candidate is known to have
spent Tk 5-10 crore. And the Election
Commission lacks any effective system
to catch the rule breakers, which
all the more makes the system meaningless.
An opaque accounting system in the
body politic makes such efforts even
mysterious funding of the political
parties also contributes to the rise
in use of black money in elections.
It is now an open secret that different
business groups foot the bill for
the parties during elections. But
no one knows who contributes how much
to the process. This black hole of
information opens the scope of commercialisation
of politics. When in power, the politicians
feel duty-bound to pay back the 'support'
they received from the businessmen.
Thus a vicious circle of corruption
and money power in politics takes
root. Here needs some fundamental
reforms in the election system. Businessmen
may be given some tax benefits for
donations to political parties and
like in Britain MPs should declare
whose interest they lobby for. This
may help make the election process
transparent to some extent.
more effective than this would be
state funding of the election campaign.
This would help cut role of black
money in electioneering as the state
with the taxpayers' money would take
care of candidates' election related
expenses. The MPs would remain more
committed to their constituencies
instead of vested business groups
and the taxpayers would have a more
dictating terms in what their representatives
do. This idea had been advocated more
than once by Prof Rehman Sobhan without
any serious consideration by the political
the process has to start from a much
earlier stage, may be months and years
before an election takes place. It
is now a common practice that the
ruling party MPs get hefty relief
allocations in various forms in the
election year. When Awami League was
about to leave office for the caretaker
government to take over, the cabinet
committee meeting on April 23, 2001
allocated 100,000 tonnes of extra
wheat for infrastructure development.
Each MP and political leader got 500
tonnes of the food for distribution.
This is just one of the many indirect
ways of influencing the constituencies.
In a similar fashion, the BNP government
allocated Tk 25 lakh for its candidates
in each constituency ahead of the
1996 elections to the 6th parliament.
bureaucrats aspiring to join politics
also resort to similar tactics. Once
they make up their mind to get involved
in politics, they devise development
works in a way that his constituency
gets good allocations. In the process,
he becomes popular and later, elected.
Such practices need to be stopped
if election process needs to be cleaned
whatever mechanisms are adopted, rules
made and system introduced, the ultimate
onus of clean election campaign lies
with the political parties themselves.
It is high time for them to understand
that money will only counter money
and will lead to corruption. The stakes
will go up every five years with results
contributing to Bangladesh making
a permanent berth at the bottom rung
of the corruption index.
The author is News Editor of The Daily