A new method of enticing voters seems to have caught on during this year’s assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. Call it an extension of or updated version of the state’s freebie culture in electoral politics. While many candidates allegedly distributed cash to voters, those not that well-off took a short cut to buy votes. Like Balamurugan, the AMMK candidate from Kumbakonam. A day before voting on April 6, his supporters distributed tokens on which the name and address of a leading grocery shop was printed along with the figure “2,000/-“. The voters were informed that they could exchange the tokens for Rs 2,000 worth of goods from the shop the day after polling.
But when the gullible voters approached the shop owner, he claimed total ignorance of any such arrangement with the candidate. Soon he even downed his shutters after pasting posters that declared “This shop is not responsible for the tokens given by any candidate”. Many voters went to the shop carrying large shopping bags. They had to return fuming at the con the candidate pulled off. Some AMMK functionaries, when confronted, tried to explain that the tokens were meant to be exchanged for Rs 2,000 in cash and the address was the location where the payment was to happen. According to several Kumbakonam voters, who had got tricked into voting for the AMMK’s “Cooker” symbol, even this claim proved to be a hoax since no one from the party was present near that shop after election day to give the money.