Saturday, February 18, 2012

Meals, cash, and election campaigns

Sakal Times
Thursday, February 16, 2012 AT 08:30 PM (IST)
So, what was the menu yesterday?” I asked our domestic help as soon as she had settled down to with her work. Her face lit up as she started describing the menu at the meal given by one of the  poll contestants in our municipal ward. “There was puri, jilebi, masala rice... brinjal curry...”   For the past few days, she along with her family members have been attending lunch and dinner hosted by various poll contestants. In the recent past, my daily conversation with the domestic help has been confined to the poll scenario in our ward. During the initial phase of campaign, when she did not come to work without prior intimation, my wife and I were unhappy. However  when we learnt that she had been attending the poll rallies of different candidates and getting paid Rs 300 to Rs 500 for that from each contestants, both of us mellowed down.

I enquired as to how many of her family members had participated in the poll campaign. “My  daughter and her two young daughters, and I,” she replied, adding enthusiastically, “they pay equal amount even to children, no matter what’s their age, as long as they are able to walk on their feet and carry a banner or a flag.”

“But I will not join the campaign this afternoon... it's too tiring walking and shouting slogans for two to three hours in the scorching sun. I'll rest for a day and will join the rallies tomorrow. I'm told the payment for each participant will shoot up further tomorrow as it is the last day of the campaigning,” she said. I was curious to know how the money was paid to people without attracting attention of the police or the election authorities. “Two or three people slip in the currency notes in our hands as we walk in lines. We are allowed to check the amount only later. We decide to join or not to join the rally next day of that candidate depending on the amount the contestant pays that day,” she explained.

A friend told me that a poll candidate has distributed cookers to his voters while keeping the lid of each cooker with himself. The shrewd fellow told the voters to collect the lids only after he is elected to the municipal corporation. Some candidates have distributed cricket bats to youngsters.

I wonder whether these strategies help the candidates to win the polls conducted through secret electronic voting machines. If not, why would the poll veterans indulge in these practices?

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