Game for politics? Cricket fixers turn poll bookies

March 26th, 2009 - 11:17 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Santosh Chowdhury
Ahmedabad, March 26 (IANS) The second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) might have moved out of the country, but punters have just moved into the towns of Gujarat. They are here to ‘fix’ another game just as exciting and unpredictable as cricket - politics.

Police have started preparing to nab bookies who set up their temporary dens in Gujarat cities and towns for a busy betting season during the Lok Sabha polls.

The bookies, who operate as organised gangs during the cricketing season, normally work from cities like Vadodara, Surat, Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Bhuj and also accept bids during polls.

The gang members who escape arrest or those who have served sentences regroup in the five Gujarat cities to establish their gambling dens.

“With the Lok Sabha polls ahead, police teams across Gujarat are already on the hunt for these gangs as this would be their hottest money making season because IPL matches are not happening in Ahmedabad and other Indian cities,” a senior police official from the crime branch told IANS.

He said the most organised gangs operate from Ahmedabad and Bhuj and are constantly on the move. They accept bids in their vehicles while travelling on highways. The gang members move in a vehicle carrying multiple mobile phones whose numbers are changed frequently to hoodwink investigators.

A rough estimate of the betting racket in Gujarat during polls is around Rs.500 million per season.

As per initial details being collected by police teams, the bookies take bets on four main parties at the national level such as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Punters are being offered 80 paise more for a rupee spent on the Congress party if it wins a total of 150 seats, say police.

The bidding rate for the BJP is also 80 paise per one rupee spent if the party wins a minimum of 120 seats in the Lok Sabha. The rate for the Samajwadi Party is set at 60 paise for a rupee if it wins 20 seats and for the BSP it is 35 paise for 80 seats, the police official said.

Most of the bookies get rounded up before the polling day on a regular basis and they are found to be members of known gangs across Gujarat.

The gangs which carry out betting during the cricketing season are found to be active during polls. During the last assembly polls, more than 200 bookies were rounded up, the police official added.

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