New Delhi: The Election Commission has made record seizures of cash and goods worth over Rs 1,000 crore for the first time in any Assembly polls, during the March-April polls in four states and a Union Territory.
The poll body has seized cash amounting Rs 344.85 crore, liquor valued at Rs 85.01 crore, drugs valued at Rs 161.60 crore, freebies valued at Rs 139.18 crore, and precious metals valued at Rs 270.80 crore.
In 2016, total seizures from poll-bound states and the UT amounted to Rs 225.77 crore.
According to the EC, highest cash (Rs 236.69) crore was seized from Tamil Nadu followed by West Bengal (Rs 50.71 crore), Assam (Rs 27.09 crore), Kerala (Rs 22.88 crore) and Puducherry (Rs 5.52 crore) and Rs 1.96 crore from areas where bypolls were to be held.
Maximum seizures of liquor was reported from Assam (Rs 41.97 crore) followed by West Bengal (Rs 30.11 crore), Tamil Nadu (Rs 5.27 crore), Kerala (Rs 5.16 crore), of Rs 1.79 crore value from where bypolls are being held and of Rs 70 lakh value from Puducherry.
Drugs valued at Rs 118.83 crore were seized from West Bengal, followed by Assam (Rs 34.41 crore), Kerala (Rs 4.06 crore), Tamil Nadu (Rs 2.22 crore), from places where bypolls are held (Rs 1.83 crore) and Puducherry (Rs 25 lakh).
Freebies worth Rs 88.39 crore were seized from West Bengal, followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs 25.64 crore), Assam (Rs 15.18 crore), from areas where bypolls are held (Rs 4.96 crore), Puducherry (Rs 3.06 crore), and Kerala (Rs 1.95 crore).
Precious metals valued at Rs 176.46 crore were seized from Tamil Nadu, followed by Kerala (Rs 50.86 crore), Puducherry (Rs 27.42 crore), West Bengal (Rs 12.07 crore), Assam (Rs 3.69 crore) and Rs 30 lakh from areas where bypolls are held.
In a statement, the Election Commission said that the stupendous rise in seizure figures is because of better preparedness and multi-pronged strategy of the Commission.
“The Commission conducted exhaustive reviews at various levels which included review meetings with Enforcement agencies of the States and Union Territory (UT), meetings with Revenue Secretary, Chairman, CBDT, Chairman, CBIC and Director FIU-Ind for inter-agency co-operation and real-time sharing of intelligence,” it said.
The poll body said that for an effective monitoring, it had appointed five Special Expenditure Observers having formidable domain expertise and impeccable track record.
“As per law, distributing cash and gifts during the electoral process with the intent to influence voters is not permitted and such expenditure comes under the definition of ‘bribery’ which is an offence both under Section 171B of the IPC and under the R.P. Act, 1951. The expenditure on such items is illegal,” it said.
The poll body further stated that the drive against the menace of money power will continue with vigour in the remaining phases of elections and the seizure figures are expected to increase further.