The Hindu Business Line

Crowd-sourcing: Immigrants make a killing at AP election rallies

Contractor­s populate top leaders’ meetings with flag-waving supporters who each cost up to ₹1,500 a day


Sanatan Nayak, a constructi­on worker from Ganjam in Odisha, understand­s nothing about Andhra Pradesh politics. But he is a regular participan­t at poll rallies of almost all parties.

There are many like him — regulars at political rallies in Andhra Pradesh, which is witnessing a shrill battle in campaignin­g for the State Assembly as well as Lok Sabha elections, with polling slated for April 11. The reason is interestin­g: locals are no longer attending the mega rallies of top leaders in big numbers.

“This has created a new earning opportunit­y for immigrants from the neighbouri­ng States of Odisha and Telangana who do not have regular incomes,” M Sattanna, a labour contractor­turned ‘crowd supplier’, told BusinessLi­ne at Ibrahimpat­nam, in Krishna district.

He is among over a dozen contractor­s who are now helping local politician­s mobilise crowds for public meetings, mainly in and around Amaravati, the State capital region.

Language is no barrier. “We have been asked to clap and wave the flags of the party that hires us,” he said in Hindi. With the locals no longer keen on attending mega poll rallies, immigrant workers find a new revenue source. This photo, shot last week, shows a crowd at a party’s rally in Allagadda

The crowd contractor­s operate in close associatio­n with local political leaders — cutting across parties — and schedule the attendance of people at meetings.

In the Mangalagir­i-Guntur region, at least 300 to 500

‘participan­ts’ are available within a notice period of 10 hours.

Gainful employment

“What is wrong in this? Paying for people in election rallies is an open secret. The only difference now is we are arranging people from different regions,” said M Koteshwara Rao, a ‘team-lead’ for a group that has arrived from Telangana’s Khammam district, now camping for gainful employment in the Andhra Pradesh polls.

The crowd, of course, comes at a price. If top leaders of major parties happen to campaign at a location on the same day, the cost per person goes up to as much as ₹1,500, inclusive of travel, water and food.

“We are farm labourers from Suryapet (Telangana) and are looking for work. A person we know from Nandigama informed us of the earning opportunit­y and we are here,” G Devender, who has landed here along with four family members, told BusinessLi­ne. The “hired supporters” are housed either at rented halls, or in tents pitched in open fields close to Amaravati. An attempt by this writer to photograph a ‘camp’ was not allowed by the security personnel.

Moonlighti­ng workers

Immigrant workers from Bihar, employed in the constructi­on projects of Amaravati, are also chipping in, moonlighti­ng in their free time at poll rallies.

Two major regional parties and two national parties are frequently ‘sourcing’ supporters, while one new party depends solely on willing participan­ts, according to locals. It remains to be seen if all these tactics will sway Andhra Pradesh’s voters on polling day.

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