Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLA G Lasya Nanditha died in a road accident on the Patancheru outer Ring Road in Telangana's Sangerddy district on the outskirts of Hyderabad on Friday early morning.
Is the anti-incumbency wave in Telangana strong enough to withstand the lure of cash and liquor? That is the crucial question on everybody’s lips as political parties slip into poll management mode with the state all set to vote tomorrow.
In Telangana and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, “poll management” is not limited to mobilising voters and ensuring the presence of election agents in polling booths, it is actually a euphemism used to denote distribution of liquor and cash among voters by candidates.
With the distribution of cash and liquor being tradition in Telangana even losing candidates fork out cash so as not to antagonise voters and prospective supporters. But the bypoll for Munugode, held last year, touted to be the most expensive election in the country changed all that.
During the aforesaid bypoll, voters were promised huge sums of money, and even gold, in exchange for their votes with BRS and the BJP vying each other to win a battle of prestige. As the election authorities remained a mute spectator, voters openly refused to go to the polling booths to vote on the day of election without the bribe.
Unable to distribute cash on the D-day due to strict “nakabandi” by the police, one of the parties in the fray in a particular segment of the constituency that was supposed to give it the lead lost the election.
Learning a lesson from this experience, the Election Commission, this time around, has taken a stringent stand declaring the seizure list yesterday that included cash, gold, liquor and drugs worth Rs731 crore – the largest haul in the elections so far.
However, it proved no deterrent on either seasoned political parties and their cadres or the voters. “I am hoping to get cash from both the ruling as well as the Opposition parties. But I expect the sitting MLA to pay more if he wants my vote since I voted for him the last time,” said a voter from Serilingampally.
“The mindset seems to suggest that since an MLA makes so much in his five-year tenure because of that one vote, the voter also feels he should earn at least something out of it,” said a political leader of a national party, on conditions of anonymity.
As a ruling party supporter pointed out that it was not enough to have money and liquor but also a strong cadre network to distribute the goodies at the right place within a short time. This is where the Opposition parties may lag behind due to organisational weaknesses on ground.
However, a former IAS officer, Akunuri Murali, is confident that the so-called “money power” won’t make much of a difference given the strong anti-incumbency factor he had witnessed in the villages during his “Jago Telangana Yatra” with other members of civil society organisations for voter awareness.
Murali said, “Voters are bound to accept cash from all three parties. But eventually they have to make a choice in favour of any one of the three. Hence, they would accept the cash on offer but vote according to their own free will. We have witnessed very strong anti-incumbency factor in rural areas. If the wave is strong enough against the BRS, then it does not matter how much cash or liquor the party distributes.”