EC’s crackdown on money power, Rs 5,000 crore seized

| | New Delhi
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EC’s crackdown on money power, Rs 5,000 crore seized

Tuesday, 16 April 2024 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

EC’s crackdown on money power, Rs 5,000 crore seized

With the ‘mystery’ and ‘controversy’ over the Electoral Bonds yet to settle, the flow of ‘unaccounted’ money of about Rs 5,000 crore by the Election Commission in the last one and a half months has raised eyebrows.

In a move to crackdown on black money in form of cash, liquor, drugs, precious metals and freebies supply ahead of the first phase of polling for the 102 Lok Sabha seats on April 19, the poll watchdog has seized Rs 4658.167 crore since March 1.

So on an average the poll watchdog has seized Rs 100 crore per day. What is more concerning is the seizure of drugs worth Rs 2,069 crore during this period.

Out of the total recoveries worth Rs 4,658 crore, freebies and other items stand at over Rs 1142.49 crore, the cash component stands at over Rs 395.39 crore, while liquor stands at more than Rs 489.31 crore. Significantly, 45 per cent of the seizures are of drugs (Rs 2,069 crore).

Data shared by the EC showed that authorities have been making seizures worth Rs 100 crore every day since March 1. The EC said the seizures made since March 1 exceed the over Rs 3,475 crore recovered during the 2019 parliamentary polls.

If the amount of January and February which stood at Rs 7,502 crore added to this will bring the total seizure to over Rs 12,000 crore so far. Meanwhile, the EC has ordered the removal of the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of Murshidabad in West Bengal over violence in the district and the officer’s alleged “lack of supervision” to immediately prevent more incidents, according to sources.

With over Rs 778.52 crore, Rajasthan is top in the list, followed by Gujarat (Rs 605.33 crore), Tamil Nadu (Rs 460.84 crore), Maharashtra (Rs 431.34 crore), Punjab (Rs 311. 84 crore), Kerala (Rs 281. 43 crore) Delhi (Rs 236.06 crore), West Bengal (Rs 219.60 crore), and Bihar (Rs 155. 76 crore) are among the top in the seizures list.

Karnataka, West Bengal and Rajasthan are among the top in distributing liquor to voters during polls.

Significantly, 45 per cent of the seizures are of drugs and narcotics that are under the special focus of the commission. Notably, there was a substantial focus on drug seizures, which accounted for approximately 75 per cent of the total seizures in January and February 2024.

According to the EC, drug seizures accounted for approximately 75 per cent of the total seizures in January and February this year with the poll panel focussing on the menace much before the poll schedule was announced. Over the past few years, significant seizures have been made during elections to state assemblies in Gujarat, Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Mizoram.

In an incident in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, the commission suspended the flying squad leader for laxity in duty and selective checking of a cavalcade of a prominent leader. Similarly, officials checked vehicles in the convoy of the Chime Minister of a State and also vehicles of a Deputy Chief Minister in another State. The commission has also taken strict action against approximately 106 Government servants who have been found assisting politicians in campaigning, thereby violating the Model Code of Conduct and instructions.

“The seizures have been possible by comprehensive planning, scaled up collaboration and unified deterrence action from agencies, proactive citizen participation and optimal engagement of technology. The commission has also collaborated with the Directorate General of the Narcotics Control Bureau and its senior officials to identify key routes and corridors for drug trafficking and ensure effective counter measures are in place,” the EC said in a statement.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, while announcing the polls last month, had underlined money power as one of the ‘4M’ challenges, the poll authority recalled.

The poll panel pointed out that it has been taking action to ensure level playing field such as checking vehicles of prominent leaders and even removing officials for laxity in carrying out their mandate. The commission, it said, has also taken strict action against nearly 106 Government servants who were found assisting politicians in campaigning, which is against various rules and ethics.

The EC sources also pointed out that there is “nothing new” in search of helicopters, as was done in case of TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee.

In the run-up to the polls, all district magistrates and superintendents of police were told to keep a strict watch on airfields and helipads. Such searches are taking place in airfields, both public and private, across the country to ensure inducements are not ferried by air, the sources said.

 

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