Record seizures made ahead of Gujarat, Himachal assembly polls

ECI urges citizens to extensively use cVigil App to curb menace of money power in elections

GN Bureau | November 11, 2022


#Elections   #Gujarat   #Himachal Pradesh   #Election Commission   #ECI  
(GN Photo)
(GN Photo)

The comprehensive planning, reviews and follow-ups by the Election Commission of India (ECI) involving active participation of enforcement agencies have led to record seizures in the ongoing assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

While announcing the dates for Gujarat elections, chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar stressed on inducement-free elections and cited the significant amount of seizures made in Himachal Pradesh. As a drive, the results are encouraging with Gujarat witnessing seizures of Rs 71.88 crore in just a few days of announcement of elections which surpasses even the seizures made in the entire duration of enforcement of Model Code of Conduct in the 2017 elections, which was Rs 27.21 crore. Similarly, the seizures in Himachal Pradesh are also significant amounting to Rs 50.28 crore as compared to Rs 9.03 crore, marking more than five-fold increase in five years.

If citizens become vigilant and use cVigil App more extensively, it would go a long way in curbing money power in the elections, the ECI noted in a release Friday.

The process of effective expenditure monitoring starts months before the announcement of elections and includes host of activities like appointment of experienced officers as expenditure observers, sensitizing and reviewing enforcement agencies for more coordinated and comprehensive monitoring, marking of expenditure sensitive constituencies, ensuring planning of adequate availability of field level teams in the monitoring process and regular follow-ups with DEOs/SPs with a view to curb role of money-power in vitiating elections. Visits by the ECI to review the electoral preparedness along with the review of central observers and DEOs, SPs has already been taken for comprehensive monitoring.

Though these are early days after the polls were announced in Gujarat, yet activity by police has led to seizure of around 1,10,000 litres of liquor valued at Rs. 3.86 crore. DRI also reported massive seizure amounting to Rs. 64 crore of toys and accessories which were being smuggled by way of mis-declaration and by resorting to concealment in import cargo at Mundra Port. Two persons including the mastermind have been arrested in the case and further investigation is under progress.

For effective monitoring to curb money power in Gujarat elections, the ECI has also deployed 69 expenditure observers. 27 assembly constituencies have been marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for closer monitoring in these constituencies.

The ECI visited Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in September for reviewing electoral preparedness and dedicated teams also visited various regions of the two states in October to oversee preparations for the conduct of elections.  The ECI, during its visit in both the states, took extensive reviews of enforcement agencies, district authorities and police nodal officers to emphasize close and effective monitoring of items meant for influencing voters.

During its visit in Himachal Pradesh, chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar and election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, while reviewing preparedness of districts and enforcement agencies, emphasized tight vigil on illegal mining business and areas like liquor, suspicious cash and product arising out of which has potential of vitiating elections.

On the same lines, Investigation Wing of Income Tax Department, which is one of the main participating enforcement agency, conducted raids on stone crushing units in 27 premises of Himachal Pradesh and adjoining States and seized significant cash. It also conducted another search and seizure operation on manufacturer and traders of country liquor, wherein, unaccounted cash was seized and discrepancies in stock and account keeping was observed. Seizures, particularly relating to liquor, drugs and freebies, were also done by Police, Excise officials and other enforcement agencies. For effective monitoring to curb money power in General Elections to Legislative Assembly of Himachal Pradesh, Election Commission of India has also deployed 23 Expenditure Observers.

Even in bye-elections, 2022 in 7 assembly constituencies in Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, in which polling concluded Thursday, significant seizures of Rs.9.35 crore was made. Record seizures was made in highly expenditure sensitive Munugode assembly constituency of Telangana where significant amount of cash amounting to Rs 6.6 crore along with thousands of liters of liquor, Rs. 1.78 crore of precious metals has been seized which marks increasing focus on expenditure monitoring process by the ECI to curb menace of money power in elections.

When there was need of comprehensive monitoring as was observed in Munugode constituency, the ECI deployed additional expenditure observer, increased ground level teams and conducted frequent reviews of district administration and feedback sessions through virtual meetings with Observers.

The Commission, on November 7, also held a video conference with chief secretaries, principal secretary (home), DGPs, DG (Income Tax, Inv.), excise commissioners, IGP (Operations), CEOs of Himachal Pradesh and its neighbouring states and reviewed law and order situation and steps taken to keep a vigil on inter-state border movement of inducements and sealing of borders during the electoral process.

The ECI also reviewed central observers for last 72 hours efforts and polling arrangements in line with conducting fair, accessible and inducement-free poll. The efforts on close monitoring will further continue in the poll-going states till completion of the ongoing elections and the figures of seizure is expected to rise further.

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