Chennai: Tamil Nadu has earned the dubious distinction of topping the list of states with the highest value of seizures of unaccounted cash, contraband and valuables this poll season. While Assembly elections have been held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry; the multi-phased polling process is underway in West Bengal.
Incidentally, for the first time the seizures crossed Rs 1,000 crore “in any Assembly electoral process”, the Election Commission of India said on Friday. Of this, Tamil Nadu accounted for Rs 446.28 crore including Rs 236.69 crore cash.
The overall recovery was almost five-fold higher than the seizures made during the Assembly elections 2016 in these States and the Union Territory in 2016 when the value of recovery was only Rs 225.77 crore.
This time the overall cash seizure in the four States and one Union Territory amounted to Rs 344.85 crore. Liquor worth Rs 85.01 crore was seized with Assam topping the chart with Rs 41.97 crore. The value of overall drug seizure was Rs 161.60 crore with West Bengal on top with Rs 118.83 crore worth drugs. The overall freebies seized were worth Rs 139.18 crore and precious metal (gold, silver etc) accounted for Rs 270.80 crore and of this Rs 176.46 crore worth metals was in Tamil Nadu.
The steep rise in seizures was a result of the deployment of Special Expenditure Observers and 321 Expenditure Observers for close monitoring. Besides, 259 Assembly constituencies were marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for the more focussed vigil.
“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/UT, meetings with Revenue Secretary; Chairman, CBDT; Chairman, CBIC & Director FIU-Ind for inter-agency cooperation and real-time sharing of intelligence,” the ECI Under-Secretary Pawan Diwan said.
The Commission also convened meetings with Secretaries, Principal Secretaries (Home), DGPs, Secretary Excise/Excise Commissioners, DGs Income Tax, Police & CAPF Nodals of all poll-bound States/UT & its neighbouring States, MHA and Railway Officials to ensure comprehensive monitoring.
The Special Expenditure Officers had “formidable domain expertise and impeccable track record” and they did extensive travelling of respective States and interacted with enforcement Agencies for focused monitoring.
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.