Bebo, Kareena, Roxy, mastiyo Bijli are all set to lure voters in Uttar Pardesh villages. These Bollywood sensation-sounding names are brands of popular country liquor brands that are being arranged by political parties to a night party place are where people get to pledge their votes in return for free booze.
The ever-watchful Election Commission has been trying its best to crack down on this kind of partying – it’s seized lakhs of litres of alcohol, besides 30,000 kg of narcotics, including heroin, opium, marijuana in various forms and other chemical substances it didn’t name.
But brand names are evidently quite the thing .. in this underground party scene. In places such as Uttar Pradesh, where every party used to be fuelled by one country liquor brand, Narangi, there’s an array of products with names like Bebo, Kareena, Roxy, Mastiyo Bijli and Border. For the uninitiated, Bebo is what Kareena Kapoor’s close friends and family call her.
In the far corners of rural Uttar Pradesh, as dusk falls, some of the menfolk – and these are men-only affairs – sneak out of their homes on the pretext of attending a “party meeting”.
The menfolk head to a distant orchard, the site of a tube well or a brick field – any place that’s deserted by night – where their host for the night is a local candidate, away from the prying eyes of election observers. Sometimes, the village elders join in and occasionally the caste divide even gets bridged, at least until the next morning.
Liquor is mostly used to persuade the poor in rural areas as those in urban areas or better off look for other sorts of freebies.
“The use of liquor as an incentive to vote has been highly prevalent in elections,” said Badri Narain, a professor at the GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. While in urban areas people may join the party without voting for a party sponsor, people in rural areas do get swayed to some extent, he said.
“These have in fact became mandatory for candidates to be seen as serious contenders,” he added.
He spoke of a community ‘thekedar’ at a Dalit and Muslim-dominated villag ..
at a Dalit and Muslim-dominated village in Pratapgarh mistaking his group for representatives of a political party and offering to fix the vote. But for that, “he said that we must sponsor a booze party to begin with”, Narain said.
Till mid-week, 2.72 lakh litres of alcohol had been seized by the Election Commission. On Wednesday itself, 5,262 litres of country liquor and 310 litres of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) were seized, said Amrinder Sengar, an official attached to the UP Chief Electrol Officer. ..