Political parties in Tamil Nadu are aghast that authorities are frowning on even token gestures in the run-up to the April 13 polls. However, poll watchdogs apparently have a justifiable reason for the vigil.
A few days ago, Madurai collector U Sagayam confiscated plastic tokens in three different colours — red, green and yellow — distributed in some villages near the city. Each colour denoted a particular amount of money that could be redeemed with the token from a designated shop. The token largesse was from a political party whom the authorities did not name.
The election commission has adopted a hawkish stance but political parties have not accepted defeat. Recharging mobile phones of voters, paying off debts or crediting money directly into the bank accounts of people, taking care of power bills and passing on cash to people at milk vending parlours are a few innovative routes through which political outfits are trying to bribe their way to a poll win.
In Madurai and Tiruchy, a political party sent workers to voters’ houses to deliver visiting cards. These cards could be used at select shopping malls for purchases worth R1,000.
Another ploy parties are using is tipping-off police about bribe money being transported in a vehicle. A government official said when security forces act on the information and get busy seizing the money and rounding up ‘ready to be arrested’ persons, vehicles with bigger amounts of cash slip past.
The election commission recently ordered that there should be no power cuts in the state at night when it realised that some political parties were getting electricity switched off in villages to distribute cash under the cover of darkness.
The election commission’s tough measures – increased policing, videography of search operations and immediate arrest of people guilty of poll code violation — have curtailed the circulation of money for votes marginally. However, police admit ‘voter bribe money’ is still slipping by. A police official said about R50 crore had been seized in raids so far.