Rival parties woo Karnataka electorate with ‘gifts’

Once the Election Commission announces election dates, a Code of Conduct will check politicians from bribing voters

BJP MLA Uday Garudachar distributing cookers in Chikpet assembly constituency ahead of Karnataka elections.

It is raining gifts for Karnataka voters.

With assembly elections yet to be scheduled officially, rival political parties are flooding the electorate with goodies dubbed “gifts” – and these include electronic items as well as cold cash.

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular have been indulging in it since last year, using religious occasions to shower their largesse on low income households.

Once the Election Commission announces the election dates, a Code of Conduct will come into play to check politicians from bribing the voters.


So, to beat the system, those who are confident of becoming candidates and even those who are only hopefuls are in the race to please the increasingly choosy voters.

Also read: Lord Mahadeshwara statue: BJP using ‘Dalit god’ to garner votes in Karnataka

Religious events

It all began with last year’s Ganesh Chaturthi and has continued without any full stop.

The give-aways are named ‘Bagina’ (a gift given to women on auspicious occasions) and are being distributed in a majority of constituencies, sources in different parties say.

This contains a tray with a costly silk saree kept on a banana leaf along with green bangles, small silver boxes with vermillion and turmeric powder, fruits and a sweet box.

Some politicians also include even gold or silver material, either a photo of a Hindu God or a coin.

In many instances, there is cash inside sealed envelopes – the amounts ranging from Rs 2,000 to 10,000.

After the Vara Mahalakshmi and Ganesha festivals last year, the gift distribution continued through Gauri festival, Dussehra, Deepavali, Tulsi puja, Makar Sankranti and the February 2023 Maha Shivaratri.

The last remaining major festival ahead of elections will be Ugadi.

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Gifts galore

Political leaders are also said to be distributing pressure cookers, mainly in the North Karnataka region, besides LCD/LED smart TVs and mixer grinders. Everything comes with a small sealed envelope of currency notes.

The ‘gift politics’ as it is widely known is done openly by Ministers and MLAs, who claim the presents are for their “sisters” and “mothers”. Some women MLAs are also in the game.

In some cases, the women receiving the gifts are made to touch the god’s image and promise to vote for a particular candidate or party. The main target of the political parties are lower middle class and poor voters.

When the Commercial Tax Department raided the house of R Shankar, a Member of the Legislative Council from BJP, it seized a whopping 50,000 saris, 20,000 school and college bags, household items and Rs 30 lakh in cash.

Shankar claimed he had bills and records for all the purchases. He accused the BJP of trying to ease him out of politics.

The media in Karnataka has carried numerous reports of ministers, legislators and others giving away gifts.

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Ministers et al

Minister M Uniratna Naidu distributed ‘bagina’ in his constituency Rajarajeshwari Nagar and said he was giving them to “sisters” as part of a local tradition.

Minister Bairathi Basavaraju’s supporters have also distributed ‘bagina’ to women.

Several leaders including Bairathi Basavaraju arranged “Kalyanotsavam’ for Lord Venkateshwara and distributed saris and gifts as ‘prasadam’ in their constituencies.

Some Congress MLAs presented cookers to voters. So did one BJP minister.

In Gauribidanur constituency, KH Puttaswamy Gowda, who is popular for his social work, sent a gift to every house.

Some prospective candidates have distributed tokens to voters – making them eligible to get a sari and other goodies.

JD-S leader DJ Nagaraja Reddy and social worker Mithun Reddy are said to have distributed Ganesha idols in Bagepalli. This was done in Chintamani constituency by JD-S MLA Krishnareddy.

Some MLAs have arranged for non-vegetarian food for their voters.

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BJP, JD-S, Congress

BJP leader and ticket aspirant from Magadi constituency, Prasad Gowda, announced that he will distribute 3,000 house sites to widows, the poor and specially-abled persons.

Former chief minister and JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy arranged for non-vegetarian food at Ramanagar where his son Nikhil Kumara Swamy will be the party candidate.

Bagepalli BJP ticket aspirant Ramalingappa is said to have arranged tour programmes to pilgrimage centres.

Bagepalli Congress MLA SN Subbareddy arranged mass marriages for 501 couples. He reportedly gifted cows and allotted borewells.


For the record, both the Congress and BJP deny giving gifts to voters.

The Election Commission must “tackle the issue transparently and can take action including against us. The BJP is involved in such activities openly and wooing voters,” Congress spokesperson M. Ramachanddrappa told The Federal.

BJP chief spokesperson MG Mahesh added: “Our party doesn’t encourage such things we are a party with a difference. We always abide by the rules and regulations. Some individuals do such things on their own. We disown such incidents.”