As the election season kicks in, but not the Model Code of Conduct yet, politicians cutting across party lines are trying to ply voters with expensive gifts that include cookers, sarees, home appliances and silver idols. Pressure cookers seem to be the most popular this season. Photographs of gifts being distributed and of politicians on the package have been circulated widely on social media.
The “gifts” season began in earnest with Sankranthi, the first festival of the year. Politicians not only distributed ellu bella and costly silk sarees but also arranged trips to pilgrimage centres. Many MLAs are organising local community and area festivals, and talent shows, holding several competitions and distributing expensive home appliances in the garb of prizes.
“They are bribing voters with expensive gifts,” said Mohan Dasari, State working president of Aam Aadmi Party. “Hebbal Congress MLA Byrathi Suresh distributed LED TVs, Chickpet MLA Uday Garudachar and C.V. Raman Nagar MLA S. Raghu, both from BJP, gave away cookers, and Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy from BTM Layout distributed cookers and several home appliances. These are just some of the examples,” he said.
All four MLAs did not deny the distribution of gifts though they denied the scale as alleged by AAP when contacted by The Hindu.
AAP - Bengaluru has lodged a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, over the issue. However, with the Model Code of Conduct yet to kick in, the Election Commission of India has little role, sources said.
Two Ministers from the city have also been distributing expensive gifts, alleged AAP.
“C.N. Ashwath Narayan runs a mobile application DCM Cares for interacting with voters of Malleswaram constituency. It is being used to verify genuine voters before expensive sarees are distributed. S.T. Somashekhar has been giving away silver idols of Lord Ganesha,” alleged Mr. Dasari.
While Mr. Narayan was not available for comment, sources close to him confirmed the existence of the app but denied the distribution of silk sarees through the app. Mr. Somashekhar was also not available for comment.
Nothing wrong: MLAs
MLAs cutting across party lines underplay its extent, but defend the distribution as “nothing wrong” and argue it has been a common practice for years.
Byrathi Suresh, who has distributed LED TV sets to several homes in Hebbal constituency, told journalists that he was only helping poor children take online classes.
Uday Garduachar and S. Raghu argued that they distributed cookers as festival gifts to the poor.
“I distributed some cookers to poor women during Sankranthi, following which some Muslim women also approached me. I distributed it to them also. Since Model Code of Conduct is not in force, it is not illegal,” Mr. Garudachar said. “It has been a tradition in my constituency to gift something useful to 250 poor families during festivals and this year I gifted cookers,” said Mr. Raghu.
Senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy said he distributed prizes to those who won competitions in BTM Habba, which he had organised recently. Meanwhile, he alleged the BJP candidate in his constituency was distributing gifts.