Indian election horoscope

To see our content at its best we recommend upgrading if you wish to continue using IE or using another browser such as Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome. As voting in the biggest election in history ended, exit polls suggested the ruling Congress Party will once again hold the largest number of seats, but only by a tiny margin.
A close result means any of the small parties could decide which of the main parties leads the governments, and what policy concessions they will have to make to build a governing coalition. WITH seven of nine phases of voting finished, there is still argument about the “Modi wave” that looks likely to bring Narendra Modi of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surging to victory. Analysis of Asian politics and culture, from our Banyan columnist and other correspondents. Is it in fact a tsunami, to sweep away the Congress party and its allies—or something less than a ripple, as a Congressman claims hopefully? Landfall is due May 16th, when the results are tallied.In the past few months, at least 14 of India’s biggest industrial houses have taken advantage of a new law to set up electoral trusts, hoping to make wavelets of their own by giving money to their favourite political parties. The legal framework for these trusts was introduced in January 2013, ostensibly with the idea of bringing transparency to the way campaigns are funded. An estimate by the Centre for Media Studies in Delhi puts the total cost of this season’s campaigns for seats in India’s parliament and state assemblies at $4.9 billion. That would make it the second-most expensive in world history, trailing just behind America’s of 2012, which cost $6 billion. The understanding is that the citizens and firms who give money to politicians seeking office will seek to influence the candidates who become public servants. Regulation (at which America’s Supreme Court is chipping away) is supposed to protect everyone from the donors’ influence, mainly by means of keeping tabs on who gives money to whom.India strikes a more puritanical pose. Here the term of art is “money power” and it is the role of the state to eliminate it, lest the better-funded candidates benefit against their rivals.
The Election Commission (EC) takes its mission to be curbing the role of money power, as well as that of “muscle power”—the kind that threatens physical safety of the voters and voting apparatus.Money power has proven to be the more powerful by far. The EC sets limits on both fundraising and expenditures, but they are laughably ineffective.

Political parties and candidates must break the rules in order to stand a chance of winning.
An aide to party leader L K Advani told The Daily Telegraph:"We're quite confident that the BJP will come out as the largest single party and that our NDA will form the next government. The cap set by the EC has been revised upwards but never beyond a pitiful fraction of what it takes to be competitive. This year the limit is 70 lakh (7m) rupees ($115,000) per campaign for a parliamentary seat. One candidate’s jeep is stopped for using two loudspeakers instead of one; meanwhile a national party takes out front-page ads on every daily newspaper the day Delhi goes to the polls. The most visible expenditures are the least of it: transport, billboards, seats and refreshments for rallies—this is what catches the EC’s watchful eye. And don’t forget drugs: also 104 kg of heroin—especially useful in Punjab, a centre of addiction.
As for other forms of free bullshit, legitimate media costs are rising everywhere too, especially online and on cable TV. So is “paid media”, a polite term for bought coverage.The indignity of a democracy fuelled with free booze is perhaps a distraction. Even in a notorious state like Bihar, a strong majority believes in the sanctity of the secret ballot (cited here, p 129).
Sridharan, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for the Advanced Study of India, explains that it began in 1969, when Indira Gandhi ran a socialist government that faced a serious challenge from Swatantra, a pro-business party. She banned corporate donations outright, and ever since the parties’ scrounging for monies has gone below-board. Reforms in 1985 made it possible for firms to give up to 5% of their average net profit from the past three years directly to parties. In practice, this means they are not required to account for any contributions whatsoever: 100,000 rupees can be given in five blocks of 20,000 each (or 19,999, to be fastidious) and so on. Having noticed that real-estate developers are especially dependent on the favour of elected politicians, in a famous study from 2011 Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav found a cyclical correlation between election seasons and the price of cement.

With all of their available resources poured into politicians’ campaigns, the builders have nothing left to spend on building. Adani Enterprises, an industrial giant based in Mr Modi’s home state, seems to be flying their favoured candidate to his rallies every day. Adani’s valuation has shot up 30% this year, no obvious thanks to its fundamentals but perhaps with thanks to the expectation that Mr Modi will form the next government.None of the parties are eager to tackle the problem of opaque financing.
With no sordid past to haunt them, they have called on all parties to adopt their practice of identifying all donors, no matter how small.
Amounts of less than 20,000 rupees might have been a pain to tally back in the 1970s, but with modern computing power the AAP seems capable of doing so gracefully. Many of Tata’s firms are publicly listed; the original point was to help them account openly for their contributions.
The new law means that any company that calls a subsidiary an “electoral trust” can use it to make tax-deductible donations to any party in any amount.As India’s big businesses become bigger and more international in their reach, the great hope is that their internal needs for fair auditing will restrain them from muddying the waters of Indian democracy. Jagdeep Chhokar, a founder of the non-profit Association for Democratic Reform, is doubtful. He reckons the new electoral trusts are but another ruse on the part of the political and corporate players; everyone in the game has too much to gain by keeping it hidden.
So presumably they would owe more to each if they were to achieve the same influence, as American corporations tend to do to the Democrats and Republicans.
Mr Sridharan points out that of the 36 firms that gave funds legally to either the Congress or BJP, 24 gave funds to both.

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