On Wednesday and Thursday, mid-day caught ABVP members approaching students at Pune University and offering them Rs 500 if they voted for a particular candidate; when asked why, they replied they were paying the boys for their participation in a survey. University officials claim they know nothing of the activity and will only take action if a complaint is received
It appears to be a season of controversies. After NCP supremo Sharad Pawar asked people to vote twice and MNS chief Raj Thackeray asked people to take money from Congress leaders and not vote for them, it's time for the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — the students' wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party — to create a scandal of its own.
Money matters: An activist is seen handing out money to the students outside Shivaji Garden, University of Pune
mid-day found out that ABVP activists were handing out money to students residing in the boys' hostel of University of Pune (UoP) to vote for candidates of a particular party.
The incident, caught on camera, shows a group of six activists approaching students gathered at UoP's Shivaji Garden on Wednesday and Thursday. They were carrying voters' lists and called the boys aside, checked their names against the list and then handed them cash, asking them to vote for a particular candidate.
Vote bribe: An activist checks the name of students against the voters' list. The video shows that the students were being asked to vote for a candidate
When this correspondent approached one of the ABVP activists, asking them why they were handing out money, one of them said that they were paying students to participate in a survey. One of the students also told this correspondent that the activists would visit them early in the morning or at late at night away from the prying eyes of UoP officials.
When UoP officials were asked about the incident, they began to pass on the blame. UoP's security officer, MH Kedari, said, "If the rector orders us, we won't allow any person to come inside and carry out political activities."
Students gather around Shivaji Garden, where the ABVP activists allegedly approached them. Students said the activists came early morning or late at night. Pic/Mohan Patil
When Chief Rector Dr S B Shejawalkar was contacted, he said, "This issue pertains to the security department. However, we haven't received a complaint from any student. If we do receive a complaint, we will take action against the concerned persons. Political campaigning inside university premises is not allowed, but students are politically knowledgeable and won't be influenced by such activities."
mid-day also contacted ABVP's regional head in Pune. Prashant Sathe, however, refuted claims that they paid anyone for votes. In fact, when asked if money was being handed out was for a survey, he denied the allegation. "We are not conducting any political survey nor are we campaigning for any particular party. Those distributing cash are misguiding people. We will also initiate an enquiry into the matter immediately."
In 2008, the UPA was rocked by the cash for votes scandal in Parliament. Some leaders in the opposition alleged that the ruling party had given them money to vote for them during the confidence vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
UoP student, who did not wish to be named
The activists checked my name in the Ahmednagar constituency's voters' list. They marked my name and gave me Rs 500. They asked me to vote for a particular candidate.
Samadhan Gade, sociology student
The youths claiming to be ABVP activists came to our hostel on Wednesday and Thursday morning. They asked us to campaign for a particular party and offered us money and food.
Nanasaheb Markad, second-year LLM student
On Wednesday, an activist gave us Rs 500 and then took us for campaigning the entire day.
Sakharam Shendge, chemistry student
We were asked by the activists to distribute brochures, distribute flags, caps, etc. for which we were paid Rs 500.