New Delhi, Nov 11, 2022: The comprehensive planning, reviews and follow-ups by Election Commission of India involving active participation of enforcement agencies have led to record seizures in the ongoing Assembly elections in the States of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
On occasion of announcement of dates for Gujarat Assembly Elections, 2022, 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 crores in just few days of announcement of elections which surpasses even the seizures made in entire duration of enforcement of Model Code of Conduct in Assembly Elections, 2017 which was Rs 27.21 crores. Similarly, the seizures in Himachal Pradesh are also significant amounting to Rs 50.28 crores as compared to Rs 9.03 crores, marking more than five-fold increase. Further, if citizens become vigilant and use cVigil App more extensively, it would go a long way in curbing money power in the elections.
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 Commission to review the electoral preparedness along with the review of Central Observers and DEOs, SPs has already been taken for comprehensive monitoring.
Details of seizures already done so far (as on 10.11.2022) in the States of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat is given below:
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Though these are early days after the polls were announced in State of Gujarat, yet activity by police has led to seizure of around 1,10,000litres of liquor valued at Rs. 3.86 Crores. DRI also reported massive seizure amounting to Rs. 64 Crores 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 General Elections to Legislative Assembly of Gujarat, Election Commission of India has also deployed 69 Expenditure Observers. 27 Assembly Constituencies have been marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for closer monitoring in these constituencies.
The Commission 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 conduct of Assembly Elections. The Commission,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 States of Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, in which polling concluded yesterday, significant seizures of Rs.9.35 Crores 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 crores along with thousands of liters of liquor, Rs. 1.78 Crores of precious metals has been seized which marks increasing focus on expenditure monitoring process by the Commission to curb menace of money power in elections.
When there was need of comprehensive monitoring as was observed in Munugode Assembly Constituency, Commission 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 7th November, 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 neighboring 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.
Commission 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.