Friday, 6 May 2011

Kadapa by-election: The most expensive election campaign ever; Rs 300 crore spent to woo voters

By Syed Akbar
Kadapa, May 6: Its curtains down on the most expensive election campaign ever for a by-poll in the country. Contesting candidates together spent as much as Rs 300 crores to test their luck to prestigious Kadapa lok sabha and Pulivendula assembly constituencies.

As electioneering came to a close at 5 pm on Friday the by-poll to Kadapa lok sabha seats scheduled for May 8 will be remembered as the most keenly spot over by-poll with an estimate expenditure of Rs 300 crore. It’s also going to be the first ever by-poll to be held under the highest security cover with around 15 thousand security personnel on duty. Polling will begin at 7 am on Sunday under the watchful eyes of the election commission through closed circuit surveillance cameras in all 1,512 poll stations, connected to the State head quarters.

At stakes is the electoral luck of YSR congress party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, TD candidate and Rajya Sabha member Dr MV Mysoora Reddy and Congress nominee and Health Minister Dr DL Ravindra Reddy. In Pulivendula assembly constituency YSR party candidate Vijay Lakshmi is pitted against her brother-in-law and Congress rival YS Vivekananda Reddy. The Telugu Desam has fielded M Ravindra Reddy alias B. Tech Ravi. The by-poll have been necessitated following the resignation of Congress sitting members YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his mother Vijay Lakshmi after they resigned the party and floated YSR Congress.

With huge money and muscle power involved, the contest for the Kadapa lok sabha seat is going to be tough and keenly fought. As money matters with many voters in the country side all the three major contenders have together pumped in at least Rs 300 crore to woo them.

According to sources the Congress has distributed Rs 750 for vote as against Rs 200 by Telugu Desam and Rs 500 by YSR Congress party. Each voter has thus received Rs 1,450. The Kadapa LS constituency has 13.28 lakh voters. Besides spending about 180 crore on cast incentives, as much as Rs 120 crore was reportedly spent on liquor, freebies and mobilizing crowds.

Kadapa is notorious for its unparalleled faction feuds, blood and bomb. As many as 100 faction villages, hamlets dot the constituency, making it electoral volcano that may erupt without a warning. Thus the police have identified 584 polling stations as hyper sensitive and notorious, 187 polling booths as problematic and 487 as vulnerable where voters fear to cast their vote.

The marriage season is likely to play a spoil sport for the main candidates as about 900 marriage halls have been booked on the election day. It is said May 8 is auspicious muhurat for wedding.

Though there are 42 candidates in the fray for the Kadapa LS seat the fight is triangular with Telugu Desam, Congress and the YSR Congress receiving equal response from voters during the campaign. The YSR Congress was ahead in the campaign as it began meeting visitors much earlier. The Congress dumped on Kadapa 19 ministers, a Union Minister of State and 80 MLAs to campaign for the party nominee. Incidentally this is the fist time that the Congress has deputed so many leaders for a by-poll.

The electoral fortunes of the main candidate kept on changing as the parties vied with one other to distribute money and liquor. The police couldn’t check the flow of money bags in Kadapa despite setting up check points all over the district. They could seize only Rs 4 crore. The contesting candidates played all sorts of strategies including caste and sub-caste to keep their vote bank intact. The police have further tightened security following the murder of two Congress workers in Proddatur.

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