Citizens, EC ally to ensure a clean poll in Punjab

Anonymous phone calls led to seizure of Rs 25 crore in cash

So what’s really driving much of Punjab election commissions ardour to ensure free and fair polls in Punjab this time?

Ask Punjab EC officials, and they mince no words. It’s the peoples power. It is the tips from ordinary citizens, that have led to many of seizures by the EC in this poll-bound state, be it crores of rupees in unaccounted black money, liquor or drugs.

Officials in the election commission say they have been receiving scores of ‘secret information’ on phones from callers who hand out valuable tips on flow of unaccounted currency on state highways, truck loads of liquor and even drugs, at times. Several of the tips resulted in successful seizures, although there were bogus calls as well.

The caller may or may not chose to reveal his identity,  the EC says they prefer ano­nymity.
“It’s a an encouraging new trend of people participation for cleansing the political rot,” an officials quipped.

EC officials say what has mattered most in this entire exercise is the end result of checking electoral malpractices, regardless of who the caller is, possibly even political adversaries.

Officials say an illegal liquor distillery of sorts was thriving in Faridkot district of Punjab inside a farmhouse which was raided and sealed post a secret tip-off from a caller.

So far, about Rs 25 crore of black money, over one lakh liquor bottles, nearly 8,600 kg of opium and other narcotics including heroin and smack worth crores in international market have been intercepted by officials so far, and still counting.

The proactive EC in Punjab is using all tricks in the book, including technology, to checkmate any likely attempts by politicians to rig polls. It is perhaps for the first time that polling inside booths will be webcast in Punjab and elsewhere.

“In Punjab, in nearly 200 sensitive booths, polling will be webcast,” an official said.
The ECs cap on the maximum expenditure by a candidate during polls at Rs 16 lakh has left candidates cribbing. Akali Dal candidate Darbara Singh Guru, who till recently was the principal secretary of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, knows best about the ECs’ resolve to implement its rule on election expenditure in letter and spirit.

The EC billed Guru even for the peanuts and ‘revaris’ he distributed during the festival of Lohri on January 13.

A cup of tea or a samosa has a price tag in the list of about four dozens items on the rate card with ECs foot soldiers who are ever eager to add every cup to a candidates expenditure. Politicians in poll fray have become wary of being caught on the wrong side of the EC.

The “stick-wielding” EC has managed to put brakes on the tendency among many state politicians to “show off” by ha­b­itually moving in large convoys.

Each vehicle will eventually add up to election exp­e­nditure cost and no candidate is willing to take chances.  

The EC has also put an embargo on petrol pumps obliging customers who want petrol filled cans and bottles.

Even if the car runs out of fuel, the petrol filling stations have been instructed not to fill bottles for security and other reasons.

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