The upcoming municipal council and nagar panchayat elections in Maharashtra have become a useful medium for candidates to dispose of old demonetised notes. Voters have claimed they are receiving demonetised notes from candidates as bribes before Sunday, the polling day.
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Bribing of voters is a political reality in India and more so in these semi-urban areas where elections are slated — 212 municipal councils and nagar panchayats are going for polls in Maharashtra. The first phase will see voting on Sunday for 3,706 seats in 164 municipal councils and nagar panchayats. A total of 15,827 individuals are trying their fortune in Sunday’s elections. While the total permissible expense in these elections is between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh based on how big the spread of the administrative body is, bribing of voters is a reality with votes being bought for a minimum of Rs 500, sources said.
Many politicians had done their financial preparations for these elections before the demonetisation move was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. The move has left them saddled with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes which were to be spent on elections. However, politicians have found a way out by passing these notes on to voters who are more than willing to take the money. “The liquidity crunch has meant that there are not enough new notes in the market. If we decline to accept the old notes we will not get anything from politicians. Accepting these notes is not harmful as we can easily deposit them in our accounts without undergoing any scrutiny,” a voter from Satana, which goes to polls on Sunday, said.
Candidates have also asked voters to either opt for these old notes or wait for their money after a candidate is elected. Many, however, are choosing not to trust the candidates and are keen on taking the money in advance.
“There is no guarantee of getting new notes from these people after we cast our votes. We are accepting whatever is being offered to us now,” a resident from Bhagur said.
Candidates stated that the demonetisation had caught them unawares. The present elections are also important as Maharashtra government had revived the process of direct elections for municipal council presidentship. The voters for these elections had to cast three votes, one for the president of the body and two for representatives of local wards.
“These elections were important as this was the first time that direct election for councils was taking place. People had made their financial arrangements accordingly. A lot of candidates have now found themselves saddled with the old notes. However, it is not a problem as voters are willing to take these notes as well,” a candidate from Manmad said.