In Nagaland, Cash For Votes Comes With Grand Feast, Banned Liquor

Ahead of Assembly Elections in Nagaland, candidates spend lakhs on buying votes, feast for voters

In Nagaland, Cash For Votes Comes With Grand Feast, Banned Liquor

Nagaland Assembly Elections 2018: Candidates throw feasts for voters, offer every delicacy, liquor.

Kohima:  False voting one has heard of. Induced labour, too. But induced voting? Well, that's the term in Nagaland for votes bought and sold to the highest bidder among many bidders or candidates. The magnitude of the problem is so huge, the church, civil society and the Election Commission have launched a clean election campaign.

But it's an uphill battle against an old problem that is just not going away.

At a village in remote Nagaland, feasts this election season are a regular affair. The entire population turns out for a free lunch. The spread has every possible Naga delicacy on the table. And alcohol too - prohibition in Nagaland notwithstanding.

Not just food and wine, hard cash is also handed out to voters by candidates to buy their vote.

Is this feast by political parties customary, NDTV asked the host of the one it stumbled upon. "Yes", came the answer. "Everybody does it. There is a limit. A candidate can spend only a few lakhs on the feast." The election commission has set a limit of Rs 20 lakh on campaigning.

Is this mode of campaigning legitimate? Yes, is the hesitant answer. Not clear if he knows the free lunch is illegal.

And do voters also expect money also. "Usually, yes. They expect," he says.

Though increasingly nervous about the line of questioning, the host is hospitable and asks the NDTV crew to have lunch. But a youth steps up and says, please leave. You cannot be here,

Voters we spoke to off camera, anonymously said polls equal a bonus at five year intervals. They take money from candidates of two or three parties and families promising to vote en bloc can really rake it in.

Reverend Keyho, head of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council which has been spearheading a 'Clean Election' campaign, says, "People openly talk about it. Say for one vote, candidates are paying two -three thousand rupees. So if my family has four-five votes, you put all those together."

An anonymous voter said the reverend doesn't know. In poll season, a family of five can make a lakh even.

Abhijit Sinha, CEO, Nagaland, says, "We also keep getting reports that since the constituency is small there is a possibility of some candidate trying to reach out to each and every voter (with cash) and that increases the cost in one way. There are many type of inducements. We are trying to bring about a behavioral change."

Publicly, voters say yes too but laughingly, "Yes, if they give me money, I will take it to buy rice," said a voter in Jotsoma village just outside Kohima.

While voters may laugh their way to the bank at election time, votes for sale is no laughing matter and they will have to eventually pay a high price.

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