K'taka Polls: Money, alcohol flow freely in Bangalore slums

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Bangalore, April 30: Come elections, slums spread across India's IT hub wear festive look. As state is all set to vote for Karnataka Assembly Elections 2013 slated on May 5, money, freebies and alcohol are flowing freely in the slum areas of the city.

Slum-dwellers have suddenly become much sought after by political parties of all hues with loads of cash to lure them to election rallies. Many of the slum dwellers openly admitted that their vote would go to those doling out more money.

With the assembly elections around the corner, the 800,000-odd residents of about 800 slums across the city look for a ‘windfall' by attending political rallies and casting votes in favour of a candidate whose party pays the highest.

Be it a paltry Rs.150-200 for a rally or Rs.500-600 for a vote, elections are a good time for the slum-dwellers to make a quick buck.

"It's a ritual all political parties indulge in at elections. They grease the palms of slum-dwellers for their votes. But these illiterate voters end up choosing a wrong candidate," said an activist and a resident of the L.R. Nagar slum in the suburbs.

According to data with the civic body Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, about 800,000 people dwell in urban slums, accounting for 10 percent of the city's population.

The refrain among the residents of any slum is: "We vote for those who pay the most."

"In the state assembly polls in May 2008, I voted for a candidate who paid Rs.1,500. For attending rallies of three political parties during electioneering, I got Rs.600. I blew the money by boozing and partying with friends," boasted Sanjay Prasad, a daily wager living in the Ambedkar Nagar slum.

Manjula, a 32-year-old housewife of Sanjay Nagar, was candid to admit that as poor people it was hard to resist money coming their way during polls.

"Yes! We take money to cast our vote," she told.

Besides cash, political parties reward the electorate from the slums with food and gifts for making up the crowds in their public meetings.

"All political parties bribe the poor, especially those living in slums, which are their vote banks, to make their public meetings and election rallies a huge success. After the results, they are forgotten and none bothers to address their problems," rued another activist.

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