Battleground Bengal: Was BJP attempting to bribe voters?

Rs 1000 coupons distributed in Raidighi, BJP first claims these are receipts for donations, then says these are encashable coupons used to pay vendors

Cash for voteImage:

In what could possibly be a cash-for-votes scam, coupons of Rs 1000 were discovered to have been distributed to villagers in Raidighi in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Polling had taken place in Raidighi on Tuesday during phase three of assembly elections.

It all began when Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament (MP) Mahua Moitra tweeted this picture of the coupons:



The Telegraph reported that following the revelation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offered a series of different explanations, none of which made sense. At first the BJP claimed that the coupon was a receipt for donations made to organize a meeting in Joynagar. But this appears highly improbable as Rs 1,000 is a large amount, especially for local villagers. Supporters of TMC and even CPM told the publication that they were given the coupon as a promise of payment for attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally on April 1. But the BJP insisted that the coupons were not encashable.

BJP’s Raidighi candidate Shantanu Bapuli then told the publication that the coupons were used to make payments to transporters ferrying people to the rally, thereby confirming that the coupons were indeed encashable.

The TMC has now written to the Election Commission demanding action against BJP, saying, “It has been reported that such cash coupons were handed out to the villagers by BJP, as an illegal gratification for attending PM Modi’s rally and casting vote in favour of the BJP.” The TMC claimed the coupons were a means to remedy the “low voter turnout leading to forced cancellation of meetings of star campaigners and leaders of BJP”, and that the BJP was “illegally gratifying the electorate to cover for their inability to appeal to the people of West Bengal.”

According to the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) Model Code of Conduct (MCC), rule 4 of General Rules, “All parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters, impersonation of voters, canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations, holding public meetings during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the close of the poll, and the transport and conveyance of voters to and from polling station.”

Meanwhile, though there is no word on the EC’s actions against the BJP in the case, it has yesterday granted Mamata Banerjee 48 hours to respond to allegations of attempting to use religion as grounds for seeking votes. This was after the BJP complained against a speech made by Banerjee on April 3 in Tarakeshwar in Hooghly, where she reportedly asked the Muslim community to ensure that their vote does not get split.

The MCC’s relevant rule says, “There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”

The EC’s notice quotes the relevant portion from Mamata Banerjee’s speech as follows:

“I am requesting my minority brothers and sisters with folded hands, don’t divide the minority votes after listening to the devil (Shaitaan) person who had taken money from the BJP. He passes many communal statements and initiates clashes between the Hindus and the Muslims. He is one of the apostles of the BJP, a comrade. The comrades of CPM and BJP is roaming around with the money given by BJP to divide the minority votes, Please don’t allow them to do so.”

In its notice to Banerjee, the EC says, “Now, therefore, the Commission gives you an opportunity to explain your stand in making the above said statement, within 48 hours, failing which the Commission shall take a decision without further reference to you.”

Mahua Moitra has slammed the EC for allegedly turning a blind eye to BJP’s transgressions.




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