For unsuccessful Karnataka poll aspirants, expensive advance gifts result in heartburn

Aspiring Karnataka candidates used decentralised networks to distribute an inventive variety of gifts to voters — from mosquito nets to appliances, cash to images of deities — before the poll was even announced

Updated - April 17, 2023 11:22 am IST

Published - April 16, 2023 05:48 pm IST - HASSAN

Hassan MLA Preetham Gowda in March conducted Astha Lakshmi pooja ceremonies in more than 30 localities.

Hassan MLA Preetham Gowda in March conducted Astha Lakshmi pooja ceremonies in more than 30 localities. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Unlike in previous elections, most of the MLAs seeking re-election and fresh ticket aspirants began distributing gifts to voters long before the Karnataka Assembly election was even announced last month.

There was a wide variety of gifts distributed. In Hassan, MLA Preetham Gowda from the ruling BJP held a mega event for students and distributed cash prizes. A month before the election, he conducted Astha Lakshmi pooja ceremonies in more than 30 localities, inviting women for the special prayers; each of them was given a sari, along with a portrait of the goddess Lakshmi.

Horticulture Minister Munirathna distributed kitchen appliances to many voters in his Bengaluru constituency in January. A Congress MLA in the capital is said to have distributed smart television sets to each house. In Shivamogga, a BJP aspirant K.E. Kanthesh had distributed mosquito nets in a programme organised on his birthday.

Decentralised system

“Every one of us was allotted a list of voters and given the task of maintaining a good relationship with them. We handed them over the gift items and invited them to our events,” said a political worker in Hassan.

According to a senior police officer, at least 85,000 saris were distributed in the Hassan Assembly constituency alone. “Earlier, they used to distribute saris by inviting women to a particular place. However, when the Election Commission instructed officers to stop such activities even before the Model Code of Conduct came into effect, they changed their strategy. They began distributing saris individually at the doorstep,” he said.

This kind of decentralisation has made tracking malpractices tougher. Many aspirants also distributed portraits of deities along with their gifts to instil the ‘fear of god’ in voters, in the hopes that this would prevent them from betraying their trust.

After the political parties declared their candidates, there was inconsolable anger among many of those who did not receive tickets despite having spent huge sums of money to distribute gifts well in advance.

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