They will involve an estimated expenditure Rs. 1,000 crore by parties and candidates: study

The ongoing by-elections to 18 Assembly constituencies and the Nellore Lok Sabha seat will end up as the costliest in the State's history, involving an estimated expenditure Rs 1,000 crore by parties and candidates.

A study by some observers, including Election Watch, a citizens' group fighting for liberating elections from money power, and corroborated by feedback received by election authorities, indicated that each of the three major parties, the Congress, YSR Congress, and TDP, is spending Rs 1,000 on each voter, on an average.

Money dominates

The study categorised 16 lakh of the 46.1 lakh voters in the constituencies going to the polls, as people normally disinclined to accept bribes for votes. The money offered by these parties, therefore, is received by the remaining 30 lakh voters.

Although there is no empirical evidence, if each party pays Rs. 1,000 for a single vote, their total expenditure works out to a whopping sum Rs 900 crore. Another Rs 100 crore is being spent by the parties/candidates on hiring party workers with some of them being offered a Rs 30,000 package per head for one month.

Identifying the reasons for the domination of the polls by money power, V. Lakshmana Reddy, Convenor of Election Watch, says the contestants prefer to bribe voters as there are severe EC curbs on expenditure that is visible. An election official said that the voters were confused as there was no distinction in ideology between the mainstream parties and absence of candidates of his or her preference. Under the circumstances, he or she is inclined to individually benefit by accepting bribe as the best way out.

Huge cash seizures

So far, squads of the Election Commission have seized Rs 35 crore in cash, a clear indication of the manifold increase in use of money for polls. Compare this with the amount of Rs. 38 crore seized in all the 294 Assembly constituencies in the 2009 general elections.

Bribing of voters with cash is not new but election officials are baffled by the large-scale distribution of even gold/silver ornaments to women voters. Gold seized so far weighed 32 kg and silver 13 kg, all worth about Rs 12 crore.