New Internationalist

A Political Party?

Issue 086

N.I. Issue No 72: February 1979

How can money make a country more democratic? Not by spending it on election carnivals says the Bombay magazine Onlooker. Conservative estimates put the cost of the recent Indian mid-term election at 3,000 million Rupees($375 million). Amongst other things this paid for 12,800 kms of cloth used as banners - all together long enough to stretch around the world. Onlooker also calculated that the power used to blare politicians speeches over loudspeakers would have been enough to run 4000 water pumps at maximum capacity. It’s the same story for the gallons of diesel fuel used to carry the politicians and their agents on campaign tours.

All very necessary for proper democratic participation? Perhaps. But expensive elections alone don’t make a democracy. While the elections were being held, about one third of the country was drought stricken. The government spent only half as much fighting that crisis as it did financing the elections. While the Election Commission proudly claimed that there was a polling booth within two kilometers of every voter, more than 100,000 villages were without clean water. Even in ordinary times a four kilometer walk to fetch water is normal. In the face of such day-today hardships elections are nothing to celebrate.

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