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Home > India > News > Report

It's raining freebies in Karnataka

Rakesh Prakash | April 15, 2008 02:36 IST

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A race for tickets & caste games

With the countdown to the assembly elections having begun, it is raining freebies in Karnataka.

Aspiring candidates, desperate to buoy up their popularity in the run-up to the polls, have begun to break every stereotype to market themselves.

From distributing insurance certificates to women voters to lending heavy earth-moving equipment to farmers for levelling their lands, the candidates are coming up with novel ideas to outsmart their political rivals.

"We hardly have a month left to end our campaigning. If the voters have to recognise us, we need to take the shortest route. We cannot depend on the conventional method of getting ourselves introduced to the voters through posters and banners," a BJP leader told Business Standard.

The tricks of the game are different. Former BJP legislator from Krishnaraja constituency in Mysore stirred a controversy after he wrong-footed his political rivals by distributing sarees to women voters in the constituency. Not stopping there, his supporters also distributed notebooks, pencils and pens to the children of these women voters.

The notebooks, which have his photograph on the cover-page, were distributed keeping in mind the coming school season when parents have to shell out money on purchase of books and stationery.

Another BJP candidate from the real-estate background who is contesting from K R Puram constituency in Bangalore donated a building constructed at a cost of Rs 10 lakh to a government school recently.

While Congress leaders accused the BJP resorting to cheap gimmicks, one of their fellow leaders in Chikkaballapur district played a different game. Former legislator from Gauribidanur, Shivashankar Reddy, reportedly distributed free insurance certificates (each valued at Rs 50,000) to the women voters.

But why are politicians going all out to appease the womenfolk?

A Congress leader, who has played a key role in the last three elections, explained: "Unlike the men who settle for cash and liquor, it takes a lot of patience to convince the women -- this extra attention for women."

Even the inflationary pressures which have been pinching the common man have come in handy for the candidates, especially those from the BJP, to win votes.

Former BJP legislator from Chikpet P C Mohan, who is now contesting in Gandhinagar, gave the Congress candidate a jolt by distributing rice bags to slum-dwellers in the constituency.

Though the Congress leaders made a hue and cry, Mohan maintained that the rice was distributed as part of a religious festivity.

The helpless Congress leaders have planned to counter such moves of the BJP by funding vegetable vendors and retail stores in their respective areas if prices of essential commodities continue to skyrocket before the polling date. 

If rhetoric on the impact of rising prices of essential commodities is BJP's strategy to win urban slum votes, a former Janata Dal-Secular legislator and mine owner attempted to satiate his appetite for victory at the hustings by lending his heavy earth-moving equipment to the poor farmers of Kalaghatagi to level their land.

The creativity displayed by the candidates in camouflaging their poll spendings has only increased the Election Commission's task of ensuring that a candidate's poll budget does not cross Rs 10 lakh.

The EC has already seized 3,000 watches in Chikkaballapur, a few truck loads of tiles meant for roofing in coastal areas and about 1,100 sarees in Ramanagaram.

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