B.S. Yediyurappa is scheduled to visit Hosakote on Monday, where the Karnataka chief minister will campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, N. Nagaraju, in a constituency that is expected to see a fierce three-way fight.
Locals said that the three main contestants—Nagaraju, Padmavathi Suresh (wife of Congress legislator, Byrathi Suresh) and Sharath Kumar Bache Gowda (son of BJP MP B.N. Bache Gowda)—with declared incomes of around ₹1,200 crore, ₹424 crore and ₹138 crore, respectively, are already splurging money.
“It is a bit early to gauge the extent of how much they will spend but the Congress candidate has started distributing pressure cookers," said at least two people aware of the development.
Suresh denied that he had distributed pressure cookers but said that the disqualified legislators are under pressure and might end up spending a lot of money to win.
Promising freebies such as laptops, TV sets and even two-wheelers are not uncommon in India, especially in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. But more serious forms of electoral malpractices such as distribution of cash, gold, liquor and other goodies for votes is also widespread, especially in bypolls that can determine the fate of the incumbent government, analysts, party workers and locals said.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission announced that it had seized nearly ₹3,500 crore worth of cash, liquor, precious metal and freebies from all parts of the country.
In Hosakote alone, locals, party leaders and analysts estimate that each candidate may spend anywhere between ₹20-40 crore even as the state government can’t find enough funds to help the victims of one of the worst floods to have hit Karnataka in over a century.
Analysts said that the ability to spend, apart from other parameters such as caste combinations and proximity to decision makers, dominate the candidate selection process.
“There is a shifting largely to a candidate-based model and no real concept of party funding, including in the BJP," said Narendar Pani, a Bengaluru-based political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. “Something like this (5 December bypolls) that is both crucial for the party as well as the individual, we would expect a higher willingness to spend."
The Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), which claim to lack the money might of the BJP, are banking on voters to reject defectors like it was seen in the Maharashtra elections and other bypolls across the country last month.