Rs. 2.95 cr seized in run-up to Kadapa, Pulivendula by polls
Hyderabad : A statement from Andhra Pradesh DGP K. Aravinda Rao can knock your socks off. It reads : Rs. 2.95 crore in cash was seized during surprise checks in the run-up to the Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula assembly polls on Sunday. It is by far a record. The state police have never seized such a huge amount in cash in any election. But what is not recorded is the amount allegedly spent by political parties in the Kadapa and Pulivendula battlefields.
It could be at least 100 times more than the amount seized. Unofficial estimates say all the three major contenders - the YSR Congress, the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) - have together distributed not less than Rs. 300 crore in cash. This apart, alcohol bottles and other goodies were flowing too. Independent election observers, who had toured the district during electioneering, said it was the costliest ever election. But they refused to quantify the amount spent by the political parties.
"It's a prestige issue for all the political parties. It is unfortunate that they have thrown to winds the electoral norms and lured the voters with money and liquor. They have taken democracy for a ride," K. J. Rao, former adviser to the election commission and observer of Election Watch India, said. Chief electoral officer Bhanwarlal said about 70 per cent of the 13.29 lakh voters in Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency exercised their franchise on Sunday and in Pulivendula, a record 81 per cent of the total number of 1.89 lakh voters cast their vote. Repolling has been ordered in 108 polling booths where instances of rigging were reported.
Late chief minister YSR's son, Jaganmohan Reddy who floated the YSR Congress after severing his links with the Congress, is believed to have spent the maximum amount. The bypoll to the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat is a do-or-die battle for Jaganmohan, a former MP for this seat and a candidate now. TDP leaders alleged that the YSR Congress president alone had spent not less than Rs 200 crore in the bypolls. "He has pumped in his ill- gotten money to purchase votes with a view to win the election at any cost," former TDP minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said.
Jagan, in fact, began his campaign well ahead of others. Reports say the prime contenders distributed not less than Rs. 500 per vote in the initial stages and went on an unprecedented splurging spree, distributing Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 3,000 during the final two days of campaigning.
In some areas such as Simhadripuram, where there was a tough contest with the Congress, the Jagan camp allegedly distributed Rs 5,000 per vote on Saturday.
Not to be outdone, the Congress's Kadapa candidate D. L. Ravindra Reddy allegedly distributed at least Rs. 500 to Rs. 700 per vote. In addition to cash, a sari for each woman voter and other gifts found their way to the voters' homes. TDP candidate M. V. Mysura Reddy lagged behind the others having realised that he would lose in the triangular fight. He refrained from indulging in high expenditure.
The process was so smooth and efficient that the police and the election authorities could not do anything. The major contenders activated their village level leaders and assigned them specific targets in the distribution of cash and gifts. All modes of transport, including bullock carts, two- wheelers, autos and buses, are being used to transport the cash.
"Since it is a triangular contest, the voters in the rural areas have fixed high premium for their votes. From the usual rate of Rs. 100 to Rs. 550 per vote, they have demanded Rs. 700 to Rs. 1,000 each," a campaign manager for Ravindra Reddy said.