From sponsoring soccer tournaments to arranging wedding feasts and organising pilgrimage tours, candidates in Goa dole out sops over five years to keep voters in “good humour”.
In many constituencies, candidates even pay a monthly “salary” of Rs 2,000-3,000 to their electorate. Since the size of the constituencies is very small and the victory margin often as low as couple of hundred votes, the winning difference depends largely on a candidate’s “ability to look after” the voters.
“Elections were earlier fought on issues. But today it’s all about money power. The highest bidder is the winner,” said Ajay Thakur, a senior journalist working with a local daily. “Instead of any development work, candidates prefer to nurture their voters by offering goodies.”
A candidate’s poll prospects also increase if he is able to carry out the personal work of the voters. While some prefer to avail favours from politicians in cash, others opt for kind — anything from jobs, liquor, wedding gifts, ration cards, voter cards to electronic goods.
“They become your committed voters and rarely shift loyalties,” Thakur said.
“I would look this as an anti-democratic practice,” said Prof Arvind Haldankar, who teaches sociology in a Goa college.
Since Goa is a football crazy state with 200 odd clubs, politicians seek to capitulate on that by sponsoring soccer tournaments at different levels.
“From prize money to refreshments, all arrangements are done by a candidate. On an average, a politician spends around R5 lakh on one such tournament,” said James, owner of a shack at Cansaulim.
In a large number of constituencies, candidates hire women for campaigning. The recruitment is mainly done through women groups and a person is paid between Rs 200 and Rs 500 for a day.
“Women enjoy the most during elections. In some cases, a woman and her husband are seen campaigning for rivals. There is no bitterness because both earn for the family,” said Ankita, a housewife in Vasco.