Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states where huge amounts of cash has been seized in this election season.
According to official information, of the Rs.195 crore of cash seized by Election Commission teams across the country, Rs.118 crore was from Andhra Pradesh.
A senior official, part of the EC-appointed team, said the 659-officer strong surveillance teams drawn from IRS and other central services have been deputed to all Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies and they are reporting cash seizure instances since the polls were declared on March 5.
With bifurcation of the state raising the stakes in the General Elections and a spurt in the number of parties and aspirants, the money at stake has jumped too.
It is estimated that parties and candidates in fray are likely to pour anywhere between Rs.6,000-7,000 crore. This was around Rs.4,000 crore pumped into the 42 Lok Sabha and 294 Assembly seats in 2009, say political sources.
While the average spend by each Assembly candidate is pegged at between Rs.7 and Rs.10 crore, it is upwards of Rs.25 crore for a Lok Sabha candidate.
One MLA was asked by his party to keep more than Rs.6 crore ready if he wanted a ticket.
But finally the amount depends on the candidate and number of voters to be satisfied in a constituency.
“The amount spent on campaigning and distribution of money to voters depends on influence of candidates. If they are equally matched, there is no limit to the money pumped to win a seat,” said a senior Congress leader from the Telangana region.
The only possible exceptions are reserved seats.
So where does all this money go? It is used to pay off campaign workers, for purchasing campaigning material such as banners, flexies, and fuel for vehicles and for distribution of cash.
“In a constituency which has over 90,000 voters, one has to purchase around 50,000 votes spending Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000 for each vote,” said an entrepreneur from Prakasam district who advises candidates on winning strategies.
Distributing clothes and other freebies such as household articles and electronic items is history now, he said.
So why are candidates willing to spend so much?
“They know if they win, they have the next five years to not only recover their expenditure but also rake in three to five times as much,” said a political analyst.
Already, police and excise department have seized around Rs.100 crore in cash around the state in addition to huge quantities of liquor.
Past experience has proven it is difficult to control money flow during elections. But people have a choice to end this by not expecting money and goodies from candidates.