BENGALURU: Despite unprecedented measures by Election Commission to enforce the model code of conduct across Election Commission, candidates of all the three major parties, are hoodwinking the eagle eyes of the authorities, transferring crores of rupees to constituencies for distribution among voters to woo them to vote for them.Bulk of the seizures includes cash, but what has been seized is just the tip of the iceberg, say financial analysts.
An analyst says, “Last month, hundreds of crores were withdrawn from individual accounts across neighbouring states -- and even from as far away as UP and Bihar -- and transported to Karnataka almost 15 days back. Cash was sent through taluk- and village-level party workers to their accounts. Unfortunately, IT department has not been able to trace the transfer of this unaccounted money.”
An election official adds, “Candidates who have been enticing voters through cash, use the method of dispersing cash directly to several of their trusted supporters’ account and later direct them to withdraw it from ATMs on different dates. On specified days, the money is drawn by trusted people and given to voters individually or to a family in a particular village or town.”
Cash ranging from `1,000 to 3,500 is being distributed per voter depending on the candidates’ worth through different modes and even Paytm is being used in urban areas.With cash, liquor and gold seizures crossing the `115-crore mark, political observers say thousands of crores have already been transported to every nook and corner of the state and if some candidates have distributed, others will do it in the last 3-4 days.
BRIBING WITH SARIS
Apart from cash, the second biggest item to be distributed is saris. Local big and small enterprise owners and sari dealers from states such as Gujarat have been actively involved in procuring cotton and polyester saris from Surat and Ahmedabad. Even before the elections were announced, many sitting MLAs rushed to their constituencies to distribute saris to women voters in rural areas, says a party worker.
In the Hubballi-Dharwad region, one senior Congress legislator allegedly distributed saris during his birthday function to both middle-class voters and residents of slums. Not to be left behind, loyalists of this legislator too distributed saris but only after verifying the voters’ list and ensuring that beneficiaries vote for the party.
In Koppal district, gifts for voters this time around seem to be carrying Terms and Conditions (T&C). According to sources, some candidates are offering handson ‘motorbike’ to voters especially youngsters by offering security to vehicle financiers. But this gift carries specific terms and conditions - stipulating that if and only if the candidate triumphs in the polls, payment will be made to the voters. Otherwise the onus is on vehicle financiers to recover the money from voters who avail this T&C gift. However, the candidates have identified only trusted and reliable voters for this conditional gift.
Further, realtors and real estate companies are working overtime to send gifts on behalf of candidates in Bommanahalli, Whitefield, Sarjapur Road, HSR Layout and other areas in Bengaluru. Each gift box containing a variety of items ranging from pencil box to clocks to steel vessels for the entire family is packed and delivered personally at the doorsteps of the voters.
Thousands of family gift boxes, worth `600-750 each, have s been packed with an assortment of items for distribution in slums, minority areas and other colonies. K Reddy, a realtor in Bommanahalli told The New Indian Express, “This is the time to pay our dues to the politician. We have to look after their needs; otherwise, something like obtaining building sanctions in Bengaluru is next to impossible without the help of elected representatives, be it the corporator or the legislator.”
KHAND AND CASH
In Kalaburagi, gifts in the form of cash rules the roost as people here do not welcome item gifts. Political pundits say that distribution of money to the voters will commence a few days before polling. The voters are invited for a sumptuous dinner (Khand) where chicken, mutton and liquor are served while the voters are gifted specific cash amounts especially in the rural areas. In the urban areas, however, money will be transferred from hand to hand very secretively.