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India’s election commission has confiscated more than $474 million worth of drugs, alcohol, cash and gold that politicians intended to distribute to voters.

Expand chart
Data: Election Commission of India; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: The seizures expose the deep-rooted culture of vote buying in the world's largest election. With 17 days still to go in the staggered elections, the value of the seizures is already 2.5 times higher than the total from 2014.

Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment tells Axios this could be India's costliest election ever, with parties spending some $7 billion.

  • "Most of the money that fuels Indian elections is so-called 'black money' that is transmitted off-the-books to avoid the prying eyes of the election commission," he says. "Although there are strict limits on how much candidates can spend, there are innumerable ways that politicians can skirt the rules."
  • "One of the biggest expenses candidates incur is the distribution of cash, liquor, and other inducements on the eve of polling. This practice of 'gift-giving' does not necessarily guarantee victory, but it signals a candidate’s largesse and is widely accepted as the cost of doing business in Indian elections."

S. Y. Quraishi, India’s former Chief Election Commissioner, tells Axios that “money power” is “one of the unsolved problems in the Indian elections.”

  • He says the seizures show two things: “The role of money power is still huge,” but the election commission is taking strong action.

The big picture: India has completed four out of seven phases of polling, with final results expected on May 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking another term.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

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