KOCHI: With barely days to go before the state heads to the Lok Sabha polls, rackets are pushing in large quantity of liquor bottles and gift coupons to various constituencies, mainly those situated in northern districts, in a last- minute attempt to influence voters.
Though Election Commission has sounded an alert to all departments concerned to keep an eagle eye on distribution of money, liquor and other gifts to influence the voters, insiders say rackets are at work round-the-clock to ensure that people who are working on election campaigns get the gifts.
In the wake of the poll panel’s crackdown, the rackets have devised a strategy to circumvent this - in collusion with political parties, they are distributing coupons to people which can be exchanged at specified distribution points for liquor bottles and gifts.
“Apart from smuggling in liquor bottles from neighbouring states and Mahe, liquor bottles are bought in large numbers from beverages outlets,” said an intelligence officer. According to him, free liquor bottles are the main attraction for many persons engaged in electioneering.
Sources said they suspect rackets in certain constituencies are giving coupons to select group of voters for mixers, pressure cookers, grinders and other kitchen utensils. “They enter into a tie-up with dealers and the voters are asked to submit the coupons after elections at specified showrooms for collecting the gifts. As per our inputs, vulnerable families which have more votes are provided gift coupons worth Rs 10,000 or more,” they said. State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena said the Election Commission has made it clear that the violators of Model Code of Conduct will be severely dealt with. “We are closely monitoring the situation. We want people to share inputs with us so that we can book the offenders,” he said.
A senior intelligence officer said liquor was mainly sourced from neighbouring states. “Police are conducting surprise checks on vehicles entering the state. But the rackets find alternative measures to smuggle in liquor,” officers said.
Rackets are at work round-the-clock to ensure that people who are working on election campaigns get the gifts.
Vulnerable families which have more votes are provided gift coupons worth C10,000 or more
Campaign work brings in money
T’Puram: As the election campaign is drawing to its conclusion in Kerala as the state goes to the poll booths on April 23, the intensity of the campaigns has also gone up. A booth worker gets paid from C500- C2,000 for a day’s work at this stage. Each booth gets a certain amount from their respective parties for each stage of campaign works. Raghu, a taxi driver from the capital who also owns a light and sound service, has not gone to work for the past two weeks. He was quite busy campaigning.
“The amount given for the first stage is always low, somewhere around Rs 1,000 - Rs 5,000 per booth. The payment also depends on the particular party. In some parties, they only get the amount for the day’s expenses like food. The fact that some of them pay better than most of the daily wage works also brings in more people, especially youth,” he told Express.
A booth worker gets involved in many stages of campaign from placing campaign materials like flexes, posters and banners, announcements and door-to-door campaigns. The number of rounds of door-to-door campaign (giving party manifesto once and candidate manifesto twice) also varies in certain areas. “At this stage, one person gets paid at least Rs 1,000 per day.
Again, this varies from party to party. They are also responsible for bringing people for the rallies and meetings. Each booth and party sub units have targets. Payment in cash and food will be readily available. These people are also involved in off-the-record campaigns using money and liquor as provided by the local leadership of the party,” according to a booth president in the capital.
This group of people is going to be busy on election days too, picking people from their houses to cast votes, ensuring that all the votes have been cast from the particular booth and to arrange vehicles for them and they will be paid handsomely too.