Despite EC surveillance, cash flowed into homes in T.N.

April 28, 2019 12:28 am | Updated 07:27 am IST - Madurai

The State’s southern region, which became infamous 10 years ago for electoral offences by way of the “Thirumangalam formula”, yet again witnessed the brazen display of money power in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls in 10 constituencies and byelections to seven Assembly seats.

No hesitation

Even though the amounts distributed this time around were lower than what was handed out at the time of the Thirumangalam Assembly byelection in January 2009, what was striking this time was reports of many voters accepting money without hesitation. When The Hindu ’s correspondents spoke to a cross-section of voters and party cadres, they were open about the money flow. If a family of four voters in Thiruvadanai Assembly segment of Ramanathapuram Lok Sabha constituency was richer by ₹ 800 to ₹1,200, their counterparts in Paramakudi were richer by ₹ 2,000.


In Sattur Assembly segment of Virudhunagar Parliamentary constituency [which faced bypolls along with Paramakudi], a family of seven got ₹ 21,000 in total – ₹ 2,000 from a particular party and ₹500 each from two other parties for every voter.

For most rural people in the southern districts, rendered jobless in the absence of agricultural activities, the money came in handy to meeting family expenses.

A college student, a first-time voter, told her father in the constituency that she would not disturb him for pocket money for a month as she was richer by ₹ 2,000.

“Where is the question of people saying no to money when they themselves called up party functionaries and asked for it as they were left out,” says a police officer in the intelligence wing.

Interaction with a cross-section of workers of different parties reveals that in a majority of the Lok Sabha constituencies, the amount distributed was in the range of ₹100 to ₹500 per voter by various parties.

Of course, in Parliamentary seats that saw Assembly byelections as well, the amount was on the higher side. While the parties largely stuck to the conventional way of having the cash distributed through micro-level teams to cover 50-100 voters, candidates, in some cases, preferred using their confidants or family members, to ensure that that the money “reached the intended beneficiaries”.

Besides, a major political party in Tirunelveli city roped in the services of unemployed youth. For 15 days, one such youngster was paid ₹500 a day for distributing ₹ 300 to each voter in 20 families of his area. Needless to say, his “field work” was monitored secretly on a real-time basis by the party’s local office-bearers. When it comes to money distribution, one can bank on support from “unexpected quarters” as well. In Madurai city, a sympathiser of one party helped a worker from his rival party to distribute money in his area. “Anyway, the money is going to people of my area. Besides, the money distributor was quite flexible. He did not mind the voters supporting any candidate of their choice for the Lok Sabha. But, his request to them was to vote for him at least during the forthcoming local body polls,” the sympathiser explained.

Women beneficiaries

The parties, it seems, attached a “social purpose” to what they did. They made it a point to hand over the money to women. Apart from not revealing to others how much they received, the women would ensure that the money was spent constructively and not on liquor, a resident of Virudhunagar pointed out.

Contrary to the practice of covering most of the voters for money distribution under the ‘Thirumangalam formula’, the factors of caste and political affiliation determined the operation this time. In Madurai city, “disruptions in power supply,” which happened at night only in the last few days prior to the day of polling, also came handy to distribute money.

On the day (April 13) Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Ramanathapuram to address a rally, the distribution was carried out by sections of political parties as the entire district administration was preoccupied with the high-profile visit. In the case of some others, this was done during the silent period when officials were busy shifting poll materials to polling stations. In Virudhunagar district, the timing of distribution was “most appropriate” for workers of the fireworks sector who did not receive bonus during Panguni Pongal festival in early April, owing to the closure of cracker units.

( Inputs from P . Sudhakar in Tirunelveli, D.J. Walter Scott in Ramanathapuram and S. Sundar in Madurai )

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