BELAGAVI: With the countdown for voting in the bypolls kicking in, politicians of all hues made the best of the last few hours available to woo voters with inducements. And depending on the number of voters in a family, the ‘gifts’ only got bigger and bigger.
In several part of Gokak, Athani and Kagwad constituencies, it is alleged that Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes are being distributed among voters. With the contest expected to be a cliff-hanger in all three segments, supporters of some candidates have been generous with the handouts.
According to sources on ground zero in Gokak, each voter was being offered two notes of Rs 500 while in some areas, Rs 2,000 notes are distributed to each of the voters. “A total of Rs 1,000 has been given to each of the voters in the entire belt of Kundarnadu surrounding Ankalgi, Ghataprabha and other adjoining villages in Gokak by the supporters of a candidate,’’ said a resident of Ankalgi on condition of anonymity.
Belagavi Superintendent of Police Laxman Nimbargi sid about Rs 18.5 lakh was seized by police officials in Gokak constituency on Tuesday evening. “Police officials in Gokak town intercepted a two-wheeler on which two persons were carrying Rs 18.5 lakh. We are investigating it. The police teams are on high alert round the clock to prevent distribution of money in all three constituencies,’’ he added.
Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Dr S B Bommanahalli said, “The election officials in Gokak had got some clues about distribution of money among the voters in some parts of the constituency. They are looking into it.’’ He, however, said he had not received any complaints from political leaders about distribution of money.
In Athani, former Home Minister M B Patil alleged that the BJP was involved in distributing money to woo voters. While appealing to people to vote for Congress after taking money offered by the Congress rivals, he even came up with the slogan, “Kumathalli notu, Congress ge votu (Mahesh Kumathalli’s notes, but votes for Congress).’’
Accusing the ruling party for trying to woo voters with the lure of money, Patil said disqualified MLA Mahesh Kumathalli was enjoying in a swimming pool in Mumbai by indulging in rebel activities when people of his constituency were caught in the recent floods.
According to sources, leaders of different communities and religions are in huge demand in Athani, Kagwad and Gokak as they are getting lucrative offers from candidates in exchange of votes of their respective communities. Given that every voter is being paid in thousands, the sources said, hefty sums are being offered to the community leaders with merely two days left for the bypolls.
A member of a well-known local organisation in Athani alleged that the candidates were trying to buy votes by secretly paying Rs 2,000 to each voter in many parts of the constituency. He even hinted that the amount being given out may go up on Wednesday. Another member of a pro-Kannada organisation said money was playing a bigger role than liquor this time around in Athani constituency. Former minister Satish Jarkiholi of Congress had recently alleged that Rs 35,000 was being allotted for each of the booths (283 in Gokak) by BJP leaders in Gokak. He said the money was being distributed to select leaders from each of the booths at the office of BJP MLA Balachandra Jarkiholi in Gokak town.
“Attempts are being made to reach out to the voters in all 32 wards in Gokak with the help of local leaders. A five-member team has been formed by a candidate in Gokak for this purpose,’’ said a local leader.