National president of Swaraj India party Yogendra Yadav has accused CS Puttaraju, the sitting MP from Mandya and JD(S) candidate from Melukote constituency in the district, of using unfair and illegal means to attract voters.
On Wednesday, while releasing his partyâ€™s manifesto ,Yogendra alleged that Puttaraju and his aides have been openly distributing money to lure voters.
"Puttaraju and his men openly distributed money in a convention on April 23. In a school in the same area, envelopes packed with Rs 1000, kumkum, a picture of Shri Manjunath Swamy (a local deity), etc. were to being readied to be distributed," Yogendra Yadav told TNM.
"On Tuesday, when we took the Returning Officer (RO) and police to the school, they refused to enter in it and dismissed our complaint. We also have names of the 16 people tasked by the MP to distribute Rs 1 crore each and these envelops to the voters. JD(S) leaders are also spreading lies about VVPAT voting machines and even intimidating voters," he added.
Swaraj India has meanwhile filed a complaint with relevant authorities. The party's state president Chamrasa Malipatil alleged that the JD(S) was trying to spread fake propaganda against them.
"We have filed a complaint about Puttaraju with the District Electoral Officer and the Deputy Commissioner (DC). There was also an incident in which a vehicle belonging to a local Swaraj India party leader was stopped by JD(S)'s men and the police. They alleged that there was Rs 1 crore cash in it. However, when a search was conducted, no cash was found in the car. But they (JD(S) workers) just started spreading false propaganda saying money was confiscated from the car. Now, the Returning Officer (RO) has also endorsed our account and we have filed a case about the matter in the cyber cell," he said.
While the district election control room had no information about these complaints, HP Kumar, the RO of Melukote constituency, dismissed the charges, citing lack of evidence.
About the school incident, he said, â€śOn May 8, after receiving a complaint from Swaraj India party, I reached the school along with police, members of the Flying Squad and paramilitary personnel and checked the premises. But nothing was found. The partyâ€™s complaint had mentioned that there will be a bus with a picture of Manjunath Swami pasted on it, in which the money and envelopes will be transported. We checked all the eight school buses parked there but there was no such bus. Later, the MP (Puttaraju) came and asked what was happening. I told him about the complaint and left.â€ť
He added, â€śAs for the 16 people named by the Swaraj India party, there is no evidence and hence, no action is taken. I am taking inputs from the Flying Squad and police, and will submit the report to DC. As nothing was found in the school or buses, FIR has not been filed."
Detailing the cases filed in this constituency, he said, â€śIn total, five cases have been registered. Of these, two cases are against Puttaraju, one filed by Swaraj India and another one about an incident that happened 10 days ago where an FIR has been filed against him. There is one case against Swaraj India also, for using children as labourers in a function and the other two are against other individuals, not belonging to any party.â€ť
He also confirmed that no money was found in the Swaraj India party leaderâ€™s car.
Asked to respond to the charges made by Swaraj India party, a JD(S) spokesperson took a diplomatic stance and told TNM, "Smearing is a part of elections. Any person making allegations should produce the facts and evidences. Our country is governed by the constitution and judiciary. We have total faith in our judiciary and the Election Commission (EC). If they find any truth in the charges, the EC is duty bound to take actions."
He added, "I donâ€™t have any information about the specific incident but Swaraj India party is a responsible party and I have a lot of respect for Yogendra Yadav and late KS Puttannaiah, who was a very tall leader and his contribution as a farmersâ€™ leader is immense. If they find any evidence, let them submit it. We welcome any action if the charges are provenâ€ť. Swaraj India has fielded Darshan Puttannaiah, son of the late farmer's leader KS Puttannaiah, from the Melukote constituency.
This is not the first time that Puttaraju has been accused of resorting to unfair means to get voters to vote for him.
Residents of Melukoteâ€™s Pandavapura have accused Puttaraju of offering free temple visits for a price, i.e. the promise of a vote. The legislator, they said, had allegedly been sending residents on free trips to Tirupati and making them swear on the deity that they would vote for him.
Responding to this, RO Kumar said that , "We checked with the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and there is no record of any vehicle booked by Puttaraju taking people to Tirupati."