AP leads in vote-buying

AP leads in vote-buying
Highlights

AP leads in vote-buying, Election Commission, Vote-buying, Election Monitoring Forum.Lakshman did not cite the source of his estimate of payoffs or gifts used by politicians. But there\'s a proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg confiscation of election-related cash made by authorities in recent days.

In the current elections, Andhra Pradesh has emerged as the “Most Expenditure-Sensitive State” -- and this is not without reason. Election officials and activists have reported massive infusion of cash and gifts to sway votes. This is because most constituencies in the state are facing multi-cornered contests and every vote is valuable for the contestants.
The Election Commission has faced an uphill task against vote buying by launching a voter education drive in March against the practice of giving or accepting cash, bribes, liquor or other inducements before elections. That campaign fell on deaf ears, particularly in Andhra Pradesh.
Activist Lakshman Reddy, who heads the Election Monitoring Forum, said that no other state witnessed as much misuse of money power in the election as AP. “All the parties put together spend Rs 30,000 crore in the state during the elections," Lakshman told a forum meeting.
Lakshman did not cite the source of his estimate of payoffs or gifts used by politicians. But there's a proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg confiscation of election-related cash made by authorities in recent days.
During the last 45 days in the run up to the elections, the Election Commission seized Rs 195 crore unaccounted money, of which more than half is from the state. The authorities in the state have so far seized Rs 107 crore. This fact came to light during the review meeting the Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath had with the state election authorities in the state. “It is very painful,” said Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwarlal.
Sampath directed the district collectors and police officials to increase the vigil to stop the flow of cash, liquor and other gifts to bribe the voters. “We have identified 101 expenditure-sensitive constituencies and directed the officials to take stringent measures," he said.
At the same time the CEC has also warned the voters against accepting any bribe for vote. “Accepting gifts from the candidates is a crime and is punishable with one year imprisonment,” Sampat said.
Apart from increasing the number of flying squads and surveillance teams, village awareness groups are also being increased to educate the voters.
In the most startling seizure, the authorities caught former minister K Parthasarathi’s wife Kamala with Rs 45 lakh cash. She was carrying the money from the city in a bus to Guntur. Parthsarathi is YSR Congress party’s candidate from Machlipatanam Lok Sabha constituency. He claimed that the money in possession of his wife was legal and he had accounts to show for it.
Earlier the authorities had seized Rs 9 lakh from a Telugu Desam Party candidate, also travelling by a bus. The officials had also caught Jagga Reddy, Congress candidate from Sangareddy Assembly constituency, distributing cash and other gifts to voters.
Efforts for free and fair polling
The poll panel held a meeting with political parties before a separate meeting with district collectors and police superintendents and a final round with the Chief Secretary, the DGP and the home secretary.
The CEC said the state had 6.48 crore voters with 33 per cent of them in the age group of 18-19 years. There are 70,171 polling stations with 36 per cent as critical and hypercritical, where the commission will take special measures for free and fair polling.
Sampath said Andhra Pradesh is known for expenditure sensitivity. Some "101 Assembly constituencies are noted as expenditure sensitive constituencies. Special measures will be taken to check role of money and liquor in those areas," he said.
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