Money, alcohol for voters

Indian EC seizes Rs 300cr, 1.33 lakh litres of alcohol

Priyanka Vadra addresses village women during her election campaign.
Priyanka Vadra addresses village women during her election campaign.

PTI, New Delhi :
The other side of electioneering – Rs 300 crore, 1.33 lakh litres of alcohol and 30,000 kg of narcotics. These are the latest figures for black money, liquor and drugs seized by the Election Commission, which it believes was meant to buy off voters and pay for expenses over and above the spending limit for Lok Sabha elections.
Although the use of black money and other illicit means to influence voters has been an open secret, this is probably the first time the EC, through a rigorous monitoring mechanism, has been able to quantify the extent of the usage.
According to the electoral watchdog’s latest report for 28 states and seven union territories, as of April 17, the largest amount of narcotics has been seized from Himachal Pradesh followed by Rajasthan. Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states for the highest seizure of both cash and liquor. These figures haven’t yet been officially released. “The narcotics seizure includes heroin, opium, hash, weed and chemical drugs and is worth thousands of crores,” said an EC official, who did not wish to identified.
These figures haven’t yet been officially released.
Although the commission began cracking the whip on the use of black money in polls in 2010, this is the first general election that’s being covered under the effort. “This is why we do not have any exact figures of the last Lok Sabha elections to compare our current seizures with,” the official added.
The commission’s initiative to curb such illegal practices includes a first-of-its-kind monitoring committee of senior officials drawn from the revenue and intelligence services to detect the movement of cash, alcohol and drugs and take prompt action. The agencies included in the committee are Income Tax Intelligence, Financial Intelligence Unit, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau and the intelligence wings of the Border Security Force, Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) and Railway Protection Force.
The Election Commission’s monitors have been carrying out checks, for instance, on candidates and party workers using helicopters to transport cash meant to lure voters. Such surveillance teams have also been stationed at Juhu airport in Mumbai. The teams have been given clear instructions not to be overzealous.
“There are orders given to intercept money and liquor which can only be linked to a contesting candidate and political party. There are instructions not to search and intercept anyone at will and they are more careful when dealing with women,” said the official cited above.
The material seized is normally kept in court custody and only released if the concerned individual or party can prove it isn’t illegal or can justify its use in the election. Meanwhile, what’s not clear is which of the parties fighting the elections ranks highest on the list of those offering inducements, something voters might like to know, given the importance being ascribed to the fight against corruption.