The agencies engaged by the Election Commission to curb the practice of bribing voters have already seized over Rs 140 crore in cash as well as other valuables worth nearly Rs 400 crore in raids across the nation.
The EC has activated several agencies to support efforts by the offices of the Chief Electoral Officers and other local authorities in the respective states to check the menace of offering cash and other inducements to voters.
The Chief Election Officer Sunil Arora and the two other Election Commissioners – Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra – already had a meeting with the top brass of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Enforcement Directorate, Financial Intelligence Unit and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
The agencies engaged by the EC so far seized Rs 143.47 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 89.64 crore, narcotics worth Rs 131.75 crore, gold and silver worth Rs 162.93 crore and other valuables worth Rs 12.20 crore in raids conducted across the country.
“While all observers are essentially the eyes and ears of the (Election) Commission, Senior Expenditure Observers are assuming an enormous role given the quantum of money power vitiating the election process,” Arora said on Tuesday. He was addressing a briefing session for over 1000 bureaucrats, who would be deployed across the country as observers of the EC.
The EC so far appointed four retired Indian Revenue Service officers as Special Expenditure Observers for eight States – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Nagaland, Maharashtra and Telangana.
Each observer has been entrusted with the responsibility of two States.
Lavasa on Tuesday told the Expenditure Observers during a briefing at the Vigyan Bhavan here that only the seizure figures might not be taken as a measure of the efficacy of enforcement machinery, but the money trail and actual perpetrators behind the consignment should be investigated.
Chandra added that developing real-time intelligence and monitoring of accounts of the candidates would be crucial to stop use of illegitimate resources to influence the election process.
The Railway Protection Force and Central Industrial Security Force have been asked to support efforts by other to track and intercept efforts to move large amount of currencies, liquor and other valuables by trains or planes. The poll-panel is in touch with Reserve Bank of India as well as with other banks and financial institutions to coordinate efforts to detect and act upon suspicious transactions during the run-up to the polls.
The maximum limit of election expenses by a candidate in a Lok Sabha constituency is Rs.70 lakh for all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim. The expenditure limit in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim has been set as Rs.54 lakh per candidate. The maximum expense limit for each Lok Sabha candidate in National Capital Territory of Delhi is Rs 70 lakh. The limit has been set as Rs 54 lakh per candidate for other Union Territories.