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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 01/12/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) It's election time in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat and the name of the game is money, not loyalty or popularity.

The 182 strange bedfellows who turned lawmakers in 2007 have feathered their own nests in the past five years and are out to rake in the moolah once again in the two-phase assembly elections on December 13 and 17.

A comparison of the affidavits submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by the greedy glad-handers in 2007 and now this year shows that their moveable and immoveable assets have been on the upward slope.

No wonder, a majority of the contestants for the battle of ballots are multimillionaires who own swanky cars, spacious homes and sprawling plots of land, and can play the profligate to woo the voters.

The richest candidate so far is Indranil Rajguru (Congress-Rajkot East), who has declared assets of worth Rs 1.22 billion. Of course, like other politicos, he says that he will win the election not on the basis of money, but because of the connection he has with people.

Well, as a study by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) indicates, in the Indian politics, people with high assets have higher chances of winning the polls.

According to Prof Jagdeep Chhoker of ADR, most of the money spent by candidates during elections is black, and political bosses who know that this cold cash can come only from rich people, therefore, prefer contestants who can spend money like water.

For the same reason, the ECI, bent on ensuring free and fair polls, has appointed scores of 'expenditure observers' to keep an eye on the spending spree of candidates, paid news, and other aspects, and also imposed a ceiling on poll-related expenses for each candidate at Rs2 million but it goes without saying that the actual funds squandered are much more monstrous.

Indeed, the ECI, wanting to end misuse of money power, cracked down on vehicles carrying cash, gold and other valuable assets exceeding Rs 250,000 but ended up angering businessmen who have even dragged the poll panel to the Supreme Court.

After all, the commission's static surveillance teams and flying squads have so far seized unaccounted money totalling Rs225 million and handed over to the Income Tax department.

The state's longest-serving Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who is aiming at a landslide win for the party yet again, has himself been using the up-to-the-minute 3D holographic projection technology to mesmerise the 38 million electors.

The result is that the Congress as well as the Gujarat Parivartan Party formed by Modi's predecessor Keshubhai Patel have raised a hue and cry, accusing the saffron leader of wasteful expenditure and complaining to the commission that each of these 'virtual Modi shows' cost Rs 54 million.

But then, all's fair in love and war and elections.


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