As Telangana went to the polls on April 30, flames burst out of the bonnet of a Toyota Innova car on a deserted highway near Hyderabad. When the police reached the spot, they discovered the unlikely cause of the conflagration: Rs 2.5 crores in crisp notes hidden under the bonnet had been set afire by the heat of the engine. The car belonged to Uttam Kumar Reddy, the Telengana Congress working committee president, who was running for the state assembly from the Huzurnagar seat.

This ingenious method of transporting cash to hand out to potential voters added a comic touch to a practice that is rampant in Andhra Pradesh. Since the notification of the election, nearly Rs 130 crores in cash has been seized in the state – nearly half the amount seized from political workers across India.  The authorities have recorded cases of politicians’ wives politicians travelling with cash in State Transport buses in an attempt to escape checks. “Even ambulances are used to transport currency,” said a Telugu Desam Party candidate on condition of anonymity.

It isn’t just cash that is being offered as an incentive to voters here, who go to the polls on May 7. More than four lakh litres of liquor have been seized this election season – the highest amount remanded around the country. “In the summer heat, local brands of beer are sought after by voters and cadres,” said a candidate of the YSR Congress. “People complain if a candidate does not offer a free supply.”

To circumvent a vigilant Election Commission, politicians have found innovative ways of distributing alcohol. “There is bulk payment made to wine shops and in many other cases local politicians own most of the wine shops and voters are ensured a free supply,” said Ramehswar Rao a Congress worker.

Though these seizures of cash and liquor have come to public attention, it’s worth nothing that over the last decade, Andhra Pradesh has topped the list with regard to illegal election spending by political parties. The 2009 elections also saw large-scale seizures, a phenomenon attributed to the enormous influx of businessmen entering politics. “Most MPs and MLAs from the state are multi-crore industrialists who have entered politics,” said Dinesh Akula, a journalist with the TV9 group in Hyderabad. “Since they do little grassroots work, spending money is the way they grab voter attention.”

This time, with the division of Andhra Pradesh, the elections will bring two state government to power, one in Telengana and the other in Seemandhra. The stakes are much higher and so is the spending by candidates.

One of the key players is Jaganmohan Reddy’s new party, the YSR Congress. A media baron and son of former chief minister YSR Reddy, Jagan has fielded several businessmen for assembly and Lok Sabha seats in the Seemandhra region. “Since we did not have an organisation structure to draw upon, in most cases caste coupled with candidate’s money power was the factor in choosing them,” admitted a senior YSRCP leader on condition of anonymity.

Jagan himself was the richest MP from the state in 2009, declaring assets of over Rs 400 crores. Among his party's candidates is Ayodhya Rami Reddy, of the Ramky group, who has declared family assets of over Rs 600 crores. Of the 25 parliamentary candidates fielded by the YSR Congress in Seemandhra, nearly 15 are industrialists who head of multi-crore businesses.

Jagan’s principal rival in the region, the Telugu Desam Party, is not far behind. TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh runs the Heritage group of companies. The key industrialists fielded by the party include Jayadev Galla, vice-president of the Amara Raja Group, who has also declared family assets of over Rs 600 crores.

“Building of a new state is a huge business opportunity and with political power there are huge profits to be made,” admitted a former Congress MP and industrialist from coastal Andhra, who requested anonymity. “So investment in terms of election spending is more.”

While voters may enjoy cash handouts and liquor in election season, they'll pay the price in the longer term, observers noted. “It will all accentuate corruption,” said social activist Ajay Gandhi. “The more they spend, the more they will demand when in power.”