Analysis of the poll results suggests that while large amounts of money were distributed to lure voters, they ultimately went on to vote for the candidates they considered deserving
While experts have no doubts that large amounts of money changed hands this time as well, the results of the state Assembly elections suggest that political parties and candidates failed to sway voters with offers of cash or any other method of persuasion.
This is thought to be one of the main reasons behind the unexpected results in constituencies such as Shivajinagar, Cantonment and even Kothrud, where prominent candidates lost the elections by huge margins despite their considerable money and muscle power.
According to election analyses by political parties and several other social organisations, political parties distributed cash in slums and other parts of the city, but many voters did not vote for those parties.
Vikrant Bhilare, a political worker with a strong network in slums within Cantonment, said, “It is for sure that at least a couple of candidates in the constituency had distributed huge amounts of money on the eve of elections, and even on election day. Fortunately, it did not convert into results.”
He added that this had levelled the playing field, allowing other candidates an equal chance in the election. “These days, even voters in slums and from the lower middle class are aware that their vote is confidential, and no candidate can force them to vote for him against cash. I think this is a positive change in this election, as ideally, no one should use money to attract voters — it unnecessarily ruins the chances for others who contest elections for the betterment of the community,” Bhilare said.
Choice above all
Whether voters accepted the offers of cash or not, the results suggest that they ultimately voted for the candidates they liked. Even government officials involved in voter awareness drives shared similar observations.
Yashwant Mankhedkar, nodal officer of Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), said, “To educate voters about ethical voting and curb malpractices in the election was our one of our major concerns. However, we observed that even illiterate voters were aware about the confidentiality of voting. We simply boosted their confidence by spreading awareness about how their votes are cent per cent confidential, and no one knows whom they actually voted for.”
“Many times, the attitude of voters in slums is that if someone else is accepting money, it’s not wrong for them to do
the same. But this time, through various awareness drives we made it clear that exchanging votes for cash is an offence, and no one should sell their vote for a little money. Our aim was to change the voters’ psyche,” said Mankhedkar.
Pranav Pawar, associated with Prabodhan Manch, a group of 150 professionals who had initiated a month-long drive to increase voting turnout ahead of the elections, said, “Our main aim was to reach out to voters of all kinds of socio-economic strata, and convince them to come ahead for voting fearlessly. My observation is that voters were aware about their voting rights, and irrespective of any kind of benefits they had been offered or had received prior to polling, they were determined to vote for the candidate they wanted.”
Shivajinagar: BJP (and the BJP-Sena alliance) has won this seat several times in the past, until the delimitation of the constituency reduced the party’s hold on the area in 2009. Former Shiv Sainik, Vinayak Nimhan won that year on a Congress ticket, and is known to hold considerable money and muscle power. However, the seat has now returned to BJP’s fold, after Nimhan was unseated by BJP’s Vijay Kale with a margin of 20,057 votes.
Cantonment: Aside from 1978, 1980, 1985 and 1995 – Congress party has single-handedly won this seat since 1962. Sitting MLA Ramesh Bagwe (Congress) was confident of history repeating itself, but BJP candidate, Dilip Kamble won the seat.
Kothrud: This constituency has always been a Shiv Sena stronghold, and even during the BJP-Sena alliance, the seat has always been Sena’s. The Sena MLA, Chandrakant Mokate has a stronghold in several areas in this segment, but still suffered a crushing defeat after BJP’s Medha Kulkarni (in pic) beat him by 64,662 votes.