Rama Krishna Sangem
As polling is just a few hours away, from 7 am to 5 pm on November 30, Thursday, two main rival parties in Telangana – BRS and Congress – are doing their best to reach voters. Ironically, both the parties are in a sort of race to bribe voters by cash and liquor. BJP which talks of coming to power in Telangana is far behind in this game of distribution of cash.
In what is called as poll management, both BRS and Congress in most constituencies are actively distributing cash and liquor to voters. According to informal inquiries, they are paying cash to voters in the range of Rs 2,000 to Rs 1,000 and even Rs 500 per vote. Some people told me that in Secunderabad Cantonment (SC) seat, some slum dwellers got Rs 1,000 per vote from BRS local leaders while Congress gave Rs 500 per vote.
A family with 4 votes got Rs 6,000 in all from these two parties. This family depends on vegetable vendor business and they are still to decide which party to vote tomorrow. My information is that similar pattern of distribution of cash is going on tonight (November 29), a day before the polling. In a slum on on the Osmania University campus, a family of three are promised Rs 5,000 from a local leader of ruling party, but still not paid any till now.
Further inquires reveal most of the cash is pocketed by the local leaders – basti leaders. Though the political parties at the state level supply a certain amount of cash, it flows down to the voter level through these local leaders only. Division and booth level leaders sometimes community leaders take this money and distribute discretely. Some local leaders told me that at least 40 per cent of the total funds go into the pockets of these middlemen.
EC clamps down heavily
Election Commission this time has increased its vigil. Since 6 pm on November 28, when campaigning came to an end, the EC pressed police parties to check if cash and liquor are distributed to voters. Closure of liquor shops for three days, till polling is over too has its impact. Some candidates in general seats procured thousands of quarter bottles of medium or cheap liquor well in advance and are now distributing to voters.
Some interesting instances of main candidates too keeping the money sent by the party are coming to notice. Like BRS and Congress, BJP too sent an X amount of funds – as per the winnability of candidates, from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore last week. But some candidates are not distributing the same to their lower cadre and local leaders, leading to protests from the workers.
Most of the cash spent by the parties is not actually going to voters. It is spent on wooing mandal or village level leaders. A mandal level leader with some influence cost around Rs 20 lakh while those at the lower level, with caste base are given Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, along with a promise that their interests would be taken care after the government is formed. Some higher level leaders who joined the parties a month ago too have been paid sufficiently.
Will voters vote for the money?
This is an interesting question uppermost of many. I am not sure if every person who takes money from a party will definitely vote for their candidate. When I visited parts of Mahabubnagar district last Sunday, November 26, some people told us that they are not sure of voting for the party which gives them money. “How can we say no anyone, who offers us money? They get hurt, if we say No and we will be exposed,” said a middle aged voter in Nagar Kurnool.
So, voters take money from both BRS and Congress, but vote for their choice candidate. This is somewhat intriguing. That’s why some parties leaders are insisting on taking oath in the presence of photos of Gods that they would vote, in return for money (will Gods approve bribing of voters?). This technique of oath taking works sometimes, but not always.
So, leaders of both the main contenders – BRS and Congress – will keep their fingers crossed till December 3, when EVMs are opened.