VELLORE: Even as political parties raise a hue and cry that AIADMK and DMK are distributing money to get votes, the ground reality, it appears, is that a good majority of electorate are eagerly awaiting the moolah.
People, especially those in rural and semi-urban areas, are openly asking candidates and party men the sum they would give for a vote since there is an unprecedented five-way contest this election.
In fact, people close to candidates of Dravidian majors – DMK and AIADMK – admit in private that each nominee would have spent nearly Rs 2 to Rs 3 crore already and that they would have to earmark an additional Rs three crore for “distribution among voters” on the eve of polling.
“People are no more hesitant to ask money from contestants or party cadre. The feedback we got is that we may have to increase the sum given for a vote this time to Rs 300 or Rs 400. Price rise is not just limited to essential commodities, but also for votes,” a close associate of a candidate of a Dravidian party of Tiruttani constituency in neighbouring Tiruvallur district told Deccan Chronicle.
Though political parties level allegations against one another for seizure of money, the stark reality is candidates are evolving strategies to ensure that the money reaches voters much before the polling day as they fear that prohibitory orders might be imposed on the election day eve as was done during 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“Even if a candidate does not possess money power like DMK and AIADMK, he is forced to distribute money since people openly demand cash for casting their votes,” said an election agent of a candidate in Sholinghur constituency in Vellore district.
In Tiruvallur and Vellore districts, people claim they were given Rs. 200 for every vote in the Lok Sabha polls and feel it will be much higher this election.
Majority of people to whom Deccan Chronicle spoke admitted they do receive money from various political parties for casting vote.
“Why should I say no? My family has 10 votes and I expect at least Rs 200 for each vote from AIADMK and Congress candidates in my constituency. I will get money, but will vote only for whom I feel like,” says K. Munusamy, a weaver, in Podaturpet village in Tiruvallur district. Feeling not guilty for “selling his vote”, Munusamy retorts: “Are they giving it from their pocket? The answer is a clear no. It is all ill-gotten money.”
Munusamy is not alone. His neighbor Chinnapayan, who works in the farm, says he is eagerly waiting for money to buy an air cooler for his modest house in the village. “An air cooler costs nearly Rs 4,000 and I cannot afford it with my salary. I don’t feel there is anything wrong in getting money for votes.”
Since political parties might distribute money for most voters, it is likely that a whopping Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 crore of “money traffic” could be seen in the May 16 Assembly election. Terming money for vote as dangerous for democracy, Bernard D’ Sami, Professor of History at Loyola College, says political parties take advantage of poverty of the masses to buy votes.
“Poor and those living below poverty line (BPL) are being marshalled to vote through money. Political parties buy political affiliation of the poor through money. The DMK and AIADMK which have been ruling the state alternatively since 1967 have a lot of ill-gotten wealth and they spend them during elections,” D’ Sami said.
He said political parties should not use the economic status of voters to further their political interests. Not just political scientists, but former Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta had said a couple of years ago the new worry was emerging trend of people openly demanding money for votes. The trend became rampant after the infamous Thirumangalam by-election in 2006, which was captained by DMK’s M. K. Alagiri.
Narrating his experience a few years ago, P.D.Saravanan, a government employee, said a few people whom he knew, knocked at his door on the pretext of inviting him for a wedding, but disappeared within seconds after keeping a sealed cover on his table. “I was shocked to see Rs 1,000 notes in the cover and it took me a few hours to convince the people to take back the money. These days, money is being thrust on voters,” he said.
A retired government servant in Ranipet in Vellore district summed up the mood saying, “for five years, they are busy looting the money and election is the payback time.”