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At every stage of election, money matters: Experts on how cash and polls are inseparable

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Former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi calls for putting a cap on election expenditures of political parties at South Asia Conclave.

New Delhi: There is a need to put a cap on election expenditures of political parties, former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has suggested.

“During elections money reaches before the election commission can reach villages,” he said at a panel discussion after the launch of the book Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India’ in the city Wednesday.

“Democracy is perhaps the most expensive form of government. Money is still one of the uncontrolled problems in elections in India,” he added.

The event was part of the second edition of the South Asia Conclave 2018 that kicked off Wednesday.

Highlighting the role of money in politics, Devesh Kapur, the co-editor of the book, said it’s often the richest candidates who win the elections. “Therefore, at every stage — from selection to winning — money matters.”

“We cannot think of a democracy without election and we also cannot think of election without money,” he said.

Kapur was in conversation with The Wire editor Siddharth Vardarajan besides other panellists, including Quraishi, social affairs editor of The Hindu G. Sampath and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda.

The conclave, organised by the Oxford University Press, seeks to offer a platform where issues related to South Asia, one of the world’s fastest-growing regions, are discussed and debated.

The book examines the opaque and enigmatic ways in which money flows during elections in India.

“Politicians exercise discretion over land regulation. Builders launder the black money of the politicians,” said Kapur, who is director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania.

“Through our research, it was found out that real-estate is the biggest investment market. There is strong a relation between money, cement and election,” he claimed.

Gowda said there is no point in putting a cap on individual leaders. “If anyone wants to limit money laundering, they need to track the political parties.”

The panellists pointed out what they call a sudden change in the funding pattern of the Aam Aadmi Party that rules Delhi. G. Sampath and Gowda said that AAP, which had once promised to maintain transparency in funding, is functioning like any other political party.

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