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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Huzurabad bypolls: Allegations fly thick and fast on fake news, cash distribution

The Huzurabad constituency has 2.37 lakh voters, of which 1.19 lakh are women. As many as 30 candidates are in the fray. As of date, the ECI has seized Rs 3.52 crore.

By: Express Web Desk | Hyderabad |
Updated: October 29, 2021 12:26:45 pm
Eatala Rajender campaigns ahead of the bypolls (Twitter/@Eatala_Rajender)

A day after campaigning ended for the Huzurabad bye-election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) with complaints against each other, alleging spreading of fake news to spoil their chances.

On the other hand, the Congress party approached the poll body seeking cancellation of the bye-election saying the BJP and TRS, which are in power at the Centre and in Telangana respectively, were allegedly resorting to brazen abuse of power and obstructing the conduct of a free and fair election.

The BJP also sought strict implementation of Section 144 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that prohibits the assembly of four or more people, and requested the ECI to order checking of private hospital ambulances by central forces. Polling for the bye-election is scheduled on October 30.

Congress leader Dasoju Sravan, after calling on Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra in Delhi, said the Huzurabad bye-election is considered the most expensive election in the history of Indian democracy. “Both TRS and BJP are splurging money earned through corruption. As the campaigning ended on Wednesday, TRS and BJP leaders are now distributing money in covers, with each cover containing Rs 6,000 to 10,000,” he alleged.

The bye-election was necessitated after former health minister Eatala Rajender resigned on June 4 from the TRS party and his MLA post after he was dropped unceremoniously from the Cabinet on May 1 over allegations of land grabbing by a company owned by his family. Rajender, a four-term MLA who has been with TRS since 2003, is now BJP’s candidate. The bye-election is being seen as a political battle of one-upmanship between Eatala Rajender and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.

Several tall leaders from all three major political parties have campaigned and camped at Huzurabad in the last five months making it one of the longest election campaigns. “Alcohol is flowing and wreaking havoc in local families as both the ruling parties are distributing it freely to unduly influence male voters. Despite all these illicit practices and chaos, officials are not taking any action,” Sravan alleged.

Venkat Balmoor is the Congress candidate for the bypolls. (Twitter)

The BJP alleged that TRS activists were roaming around the villages and towns in groups with the help of the local police despite orders from the district collector prohibiting the gathering of four or more persons in the entire constituency. BJP’s state general secretary G Premender Reddy, in his letter to CEC Chandra, Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey, and the Chief Electoral Officer for Telangana, Shashank Goel, alleged TRS activists were sending money through private hospital ambulances and that the local police were mute spectators. “The ruling government, TRS party, and its activists have arranged a cocktail party/cocktail dinner with the presiding officers of the polling station, who have to work in Huzurabad constituency,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, a video has gone viral on social media where a woman is receiving an envelope with photos of BJP’s election symbol and its candidate Rajender. Inside the envelope are five currency notes of Rs 2,000 each. Several such videos are doing the rounds. Regarding these videos, Premender Reddy shot another letter to the Election Commission and called for an investigation. “This is to blame the Bharatiya Janata Party and its candidate and it should be seriously investigated. Take necessary criminal action against the person circulating and preparing such videos,” he wrote, seeking serious and immediate action against the people creating such videos and circulating the same.

The TRS, in its complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer Telangana against a private news channel, said the channel was spreading false news that claimed Finance Minister T Harish Rao was in favour of his former colleague and now BJP candidate Eatala Rajender. This news clipping was a deliberate attempt to damage the prospects of TRS candidate Gellu Srinivas Yadav, said M Sreenivas Reddy, state general secretary of TRS, in his letter.

Gellu Srinivas Yadav is TRS’ candidate (Twitter/@GelluSrinuTRS)

Taking action on one of the complaints regarding a fake letter, the CEC directed Telangana DGP to register an FIR and initiate legal action. A letter, purportedly from the ECI and widely circulated on social media, had claimed that the implementation of the Dalit Bandhu scheme, where a Dalit family was given cash assistance of Rs 10 lakh via direct benefit transfer, was deferred in Huzurabad on account of the Model Code of Conduct based on a letter from BJP candidate Eatala Rajender. The ECI later clarified to the Chief Electoral Officer that the letter was fake.

The Huzurabad constituency has 2.37 lakh voters, of which 1.19 lakh are women. As many as 30 candidates are in the fray. As of date, the ECI through its flying squads, static surveillance teams, and police checkpoints, has seized Rs 3.31 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 7.30 lakh, marijuana worth Rs 69,750, gold worth Rs 10.6 lakh, and freebies such as sarees and shirts worth Rs 2.21 lakh, taking the cumulative seizure to Rs 3.52 crore.

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