Coupons for liquor

Published : Jun 20, 2008 00:00 IST

WHILE the use of money to induce voters, especially those from the economically weaker sections, has been the lifeblood of this and past elections, a new trend has been the stepping into the fray of a number of wealthy businessmen, entrepreneurs, doctors and educationists. This time, a number of real estate tycoons entered the fray, especially in urban pockets such as Bangalore.

A successful, young, first-time contestant said the bitter experience of the past was the reason for this. Candidates come to us for funds before the elections. But once they get elected they do not care for us. I realised that instead of funding others I can contest the elections and even win. Getting a party nomination is again a question of how much one can contribute to the partys funds.

Justifying the need to have deep pockets, a newly elected legislator explained the modus operandi of distributing money, liquor, pamphlets and other inducements. It is done at night, after 10 p.m., in the slums in a bid to capture all the votes there. He said: In my ward there were over 160 booths. For each designated booth I employed at least 10 youth who could go around and distribute whatever had to be given to the targeted people, not once but on three or four occasions. I also had to have booth committee leaders for every four or so booths. Youth manning the local public telephone booths or working with television cable operators were given this task as they were familiar with the people in their localities.

Besides, I had to employ goons who would battle hooligans from rival candidates. In addition, I had to have my own men mingling with people in the slum and making sure that the targeted voters got their share and were happy. In all, I used over 2,000 people, paying between Rs.1,000 and Rs.5,000 for a days work, for almost 20 days.

Many families in urban slums received around Rs.3,000 for four votes. When it came to liquor, targeted voters were given coupons, which were valid currency at the local wine shop or bar, its owners having been paid a tidy sum in advance by the candidate. Coupons that could be exchanged for white goods were also distributed in many constituencies.

Even while bemoaning the strict vigil of the Election Commission of India, candidates said they had to come up with ingenious ideas. In some instances even the most mundane of procedures worked, such as dropping a bundle of cash through the window at night. Observes in Bellary district said they noticed a spurt in the acquisition of white goods in the days before the voting.

Ravi Sharma
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