Money, musclemen & liquor mar polls; Odisha 18th in country

...Poll violence touched new low when EC static surveillance squad Magistrate was allegedly attacked by senior BJD leader Pradeep Mahatathy

Bhubaneswar: What could be termed as a big blot on our democracy, political parties in Odisha have made the 2019 polls not only bloodier, but pumped in large scale black money and liquor to influence voting behaviour or say mobilised all the vices only to buy out votes in the State.

Sample the contrast. Odisha is a poverty stricken State and is the second poorest State in the country. But EC data reveals seizures of cash worth Rs 3.45 crore in less than even a month (27 days). The quantum of cash seized is so high that Odisha occupies 18th slot among the 36 States and UTs in the country.

The EC data also revealed that its team had seized around 1.46 lakh litres of liquor across the State till Sunday. The value of liquor seized is estimated at over Rs 3.78 crore. Odisha was again at dubious 18th in liquor seizures.

Overall, EC has put the total seizure amount in Odisha till April 21 at a whopping Rs 7.36 crore that included seizure of freebies worth around Rs 13 lakh.

An analysis shows that State has witnessed cash seizures worth around Rs 49 lakhs every day since March 26 to till date.

Though money and liquor seems to be political parties’ favourite vote ‘influencer’ in Odisha, seizures of narcotics like cannabis and sedative drugs like cough syrups by police have also been reported in districts of Kandhamal and Bargarh.

Maximum cash seizures were reported from mine rich areas like Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Jajpur and Angul. Large cash seizures were also reported from big cities in the State, including Puri and Bhubaneswar.

According to police sources, the ‘hush’ money are being mobilised by political parties from mine owners, big contractors and gems and jewellery merchants.

“This is root of PC culture in government. ‘Hush’ money are generated by hush-hush deals,” opined Ranjan Mohanty, Odisha Election Watch.

It seems political parties pull all strings to win polls here. Besides ‘influencers’, they display muscle power in a big way in the ongoing polls to bully voters and stop rival candidates from campaigning. The fallout: 2019 elections have witnessed political violence in a big way vis-a-vis the earlier elections in recent times. As per CEO Surendra Kumar, a total of 14,086 non-bailable warrants have been issued till the third phase polls.

Nearly half a dozen heads have rolled and a dozen are injured. The brunt was borne by opposition parties like BJP and Congress. The political violence seems to have spiralled up after first phase polls.

When earlier this month, a BJP leader was shot dead in Khurda. Bombs were thrown at BJP election offices and BJP candidate from Bhubaneswar – Central Jagannath Pradhan in the capital city. State Congress President Niranjan Patnaik’s  convoy was attacked in Ghasipura on Sunday. BJD candidate Ananta Narayan Jena was also targeted with bombs yesterday.

The poll violence in State touched the worst, when EC flying squad Magistrate Rabi Narayan Patra was allegedly beaten up black and blue by senior BJD leader and muscleman Pradeep Maharathy.

“On a tip-off, when the Static Surveillance Squad raided Maharathy’s farmhouse, Maharathy and his supporters attacked our team. They thrashed me and my colleagues. To save our lives, around 15 of us fled from the spot in one vehicle,” said Patra.