SHOMA PATNAIK | NT
The demonetisation of high-value currency notes has severely dampened distribution of freebies and gifts to voters in the state, which will go to polls on February 4.
Dealers in the state said that sale of sewing machines, cycles, fans, white goods, etc., which usually spurts ahead of voting, has been non-existent this time due to cash shortage faced by candidates and fear of raids.
One prominent sewing machine dealer said that previously sale of sewing machines used to rise during election time as candidates distributed them freely to women and self-help groups.
However, with candidates themselves facing cash crunch due to the demonetisation the “freebie trend is yet to set in”.
He added, “most likely candidates have become clever and they are sourcing the gift from outside.” One city-based white good dealer said that business has been very dull and he has not been approached by any candidate or political party to supply fans, ACs, fridge, TV, etc. He said that such kind of gifts or incentives are usually needed in bulk and purchased directly from the manufacturer. “Even political parties want to procure goods cheaply,” he said. The city dealer said that “sales have been dull and so far no orders have been received by us,” and said that it is likely that the distribution is already over before the code of conduct came into force.
A two-wheeler dealer said that sales of bikes and scooters slumped in the month of December and they have not revived as yet.
“If political parties are luring voters with free motorcycles they certainly are not buying from local dealers,” he said. The dealer added that it is very difficult to hide sale of two-wheelers as the vehicle has to be registered and “a seller can easily be caught”.
Post-demonetisation and cashless drive, automobile dealers said that they function 95 per cent on cheque, RTGS, demand drafts and their sale transactions are on record.
Following the model code of conduct for the assembly elections on February 4 2017, the chief electoral office has directed the department of commercial taxes to monitor sale of bikes, electronics, household goods costing more than Rs 5,000 to lure voters.
Accordingly the commercial taxes department has held a meeting with dealers ordering them to report any abnormal movement in sales from January 3 till February 4. Dealers reacted cautiously to queries from this reporter on purchases of white goods by candidates. They said that they preferred to keep away from selling to political candidates due to the fear of income-tax raids.
The CEO has set up a multidisciplinary taskforce which is working at the state, district and constituency level comprising officials from I-T, narcotic, customs, excise and commercial taxes departments to monitor sale of goods and other items used to lure voters.