Though the ECI has beefed up security all over the state, the movement of money appears to be taking place no-holds-barred.
After the high-octane campaign for the Telangana Assembly elections ended at 5 pm on Tuesday, workers of all three major political parties — the BRS, Congress and the BJP — hit the ground running, reaching out to voters and making the most of the wide window the Election Commission of India (ECI) left open for them to continue door-to-door campaigns.
And, traditionally, this voting-eve drive is when all sorts of inducements are offered to voters — from cash and jewellery to meat and liquor — so that they cast their vote right.
Party workers, goaded into action by the leaders, fanned out into the lanes and bylanes of cities, towns, and villages across the state. They met with the voters, colony associations, caste and religious groups, pleading with them to support their respective parties.
The exercise began in right earnest on Tuesday night itself.
However, reports reaching South First suggest that it was a comparatively lacklustre affair this time around, although there were tensions at several places as party workers confronted rivals and lodged complaints with the police and election officials.
The amounts, we learn, were generally lower than the usual ₹3,000 to ₹5,000 per vote, with the inducement dropping to as low as ₹200 and quarter bottle of liquor in some constituencies — as, for instance, in Banswada in Nizamabad district.
The general trend, it appears, was lower payouts to voters, especially as candidates sure of defeat or of victory seemed to have decided to go slow on distribution of cash and liquor.
However, in Palakurthi in Warangal, where BRS Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao is in the fray, some sources insisted that up to ₹3,000 was paid to each voter, along with silver anklets for women members of the house.
If that was indeed the case, it was an exception. In Warangal East, the amounts were reportedly in the range of ₹1,000 to ₹2,000, while in Ghanpur Scheduled Caste (SC) reserved constituency, the Congress and BRS were apparently paying as little as ₹500 each.
The lower payouts did not mean there was no drama, with candidates indulging in emotional blackmail with their constituents.
In Huzurabad, BRS candidate and MLC Padi Kaushik Reddy announced that he, along with his family, would die by suicide if he lost the election.
Kamalapur police promptly registered a case against him on the instructions of the ECI.
Though the ECI has beefed up security all over the state, it appears that it could not completely stanch the flow of money. The seizure of about ₹737 crore after the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force is being seen as only the tip of the iceberg.
In the game of deception, the politicians have put to shame even world-renowned illusionists like David Copperfield and Harry Houdini. Their workers, in the name of distribution of voter slips, in many places, surreptitiously distributed currency notes.
Not knowing for whom the bell was tolling, the workers remained on the edge throughout the day, with their eyes peeled for any violations of the MCC by other parties, while taking enough care to see that others would not notice their own.
There were sporadic clashes and arguments across the state over the allegations of inducements and distribution of money.
In Peddapally, the officials seized ₹31 lakh from the houses of relatives of Congress candidate Chintapally Vijaya Ramana Rao on Tuesday night. They later shifted the cash to the office of the Peddapally returning officer.
In Nampally, a case was registered against Congress candidate Feroz Khan for allegedly trying to distribute money to voters. Khan was accused of giving ₹1 lakh to a person for distribution among voters in the constituency.
In Karimnagar, BRS and Congress workers fought a pitched battle on Tuesday night after allegations of distribution of money to voters began flying thick and fast.
Tension built up when BJP nominee for Karimnagar seat Bandi Sanjay Kumar arrived at Kothapally on the outskirts of the town and alleged that the police were looking the other way as workers of other parties were distributing money.
He alleged that the voters were being paid up to ₹10,000 each. The BRS workers also entered into arguments with the BJP workers, raising the heat.
In Goshamahal, BJP candidate T Raja Singh alleged that the BRS nominee Nanda Kishore’s men were distributing money to the voters. He alleged that they had with them ₹10,000 to ₹20,000 cash meant for distribution to the voters.
Meanwhile, in Khajaguda in Raidurg, the police seized ₹1.6 crore while it was being transported to Jadcherla on Tuesday night. The police, in a routine check, found the cash hidden in two cars. The money was handed over to the Income Tax Department officials.
In Warangal, the officials seized ₹7.5 lakh from a BRS booth convenor’s residence in Wardhannapet mandal. In Madhuranagar in Hyderabad, the Congress workers caught a person who was distributing money to the voters.
The police later seized ₹25,000 from his possession, even as the Congress alleged that the police were not taking action against the BRS workers though they were violating the MCC.
In Kamareddy, BRS workers entered into a verbal duel with those of the Congress, questioning how Kondal Reddy, brother of party state unit chief A Revanth Reddy, who is contesting the seat, could stay in the constituency when the ECI had asked all outsiders to leave.
Kondal Reddy contended that he could stay in Kamareddy as he was the chief election agent for Revanth Reddy. The police had a tough time pacifying the BRS workers.
Meanwhile, the BRS on Wednesday celebrated Deeksha Divas, the anniversary of the day when KCR went on a fast unto death on 29 November, 2009, in his battle for Telangana.
Ads carrying pictures of a very weak KCR, bedraggled with unkempt hair, lying in a hospital bed appeared in newspapers in the morning. The BRS observed the occasion at Telangana Bhavan where the party working president donated blood as the cadres followed suit.
The ECI officials initially objected to the programme, but BRS leaders convinced them that no political activity was taking place and that Telangana Bhavan was only being used as the venue for blood donation on the occasion of Deeskha Divas.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders visited temples and mosques. Revanth Reddy and AICC in charge for Telangana Manikrao Thakre visited Nampally Darga and Birla Mandir and took a vow that they would implement the six guarantees promised by the Congress soon after coming to power.