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Since 1st March, 1999
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Only cash fizz, no juice in Koda campaign mix
- Singhbhum candidate hires 40 four-wheelers, opens 150 poll offices; daily expenses touch Rs 3 lakh

Jamshedpur, April 6: Money power has dwarfed development issues in the dust bowls of Singhbhum, where the campaigner is feisty former chief minister Madhu Koda.

If his close associates are to be believed, Koda, who is contesting from the reserved seat as an Independent, is splurging on electioneering like no other of his ilk.

Though he is fighting the election from the development plank, the same is overshadowed by his cash-rich campaigning. Issues are seldom raised at Koda’s campaign. It is money that speaks volumes as he criss-crosses the region, a source conceded.

The former chairman of the UPA steering panel has pressed more than 40 four-wheelers into service. At least six vehicles have been marked for each of the six Assembly segments that fall under the Singhbhum seat. About 150 poll offices have been opened in these segments and agents listed for more that 1,000 booths. Also, over 700 committed workers have been fanned out in the constituency to conduct campaigning in the right earnest.

A rough estimate of Koda’s daily campaign expenses suggests that Rs 30,000 is spent on fuel for vehicles, mostly taken on hire. Over Rs 2 lakh is doled out to booth agents regularly while more than Rs 50,000 (daily) is spent on food (rice, daal, vegetables and mutton) for his army of supporters.

“Kodaji is very generous. Everyone (poll workers) is happy,” said a supporter. “He (Koda) has already worked out the logistics for his campaign and does not want funds to be a hurdle,” added another.

The former chief minister has surged a little too ahead of his opponents on the electioneering front. He personally knows most of his workers and interacts with them at regular intervals. He takes care of their “needs” and they run errands without a frown.

“Money is not a problem. We have our pockets full and are being looked after very well,” said a supporter.

The former chief minister’s seeming magnanimity may have pepped up his followers, but it has also raised eyebrows in rival camps.

“Koda is splurging this election. He is distributing cash to all and sundry,” claimed Bagun Sumbrui, the UPA candidate from the seat. “Issues mean nothing to him. He is banking on his money power. But that alone cannot win votes,” the octogenarian said.

Both Sumbrui and BJP nominee Barkunwar Gagrai claimed that money was the highlight of Koda’s campaign. “He is splurging. After all, this is the right time to spend money,” said a sarcastic Gagrai.

Besides doling out cash, Koda is also allegedly working overtime to create rift in rival camps. “He is engineering defection in the BJP and the Congress. His previous association with the BJP is coming in handy,” a source said.

Koda denied all the allegations. “Development is my plank. Singhbhum has not reaped any benefit during the tenure of the five-time MP (Sumbrui). I am here to change the destiny of Singhbhum,” he said.

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