Seizures of more than ₹1,000 crores have been done in the ongoing assembly elections in five Indian states so far, the Election Commission of India (ECI) revealed in a statement on Friday. The poll watchdog added that expenditures climbed more than four times in comparison to the 2016 assembly elections.
In Goa, seizures increased by ₹9.09 crore with the figures reaching ₹12.73 crore at the end of 2022 assembly elections, up from ₹3.64 crore in 2017. In Uttarakhand, the seizures rose to ₹18.81 crore from ₹6.85 in 2017.
In Uttar Pradesh, where polls are underway, seizures spiked by ₹114.63 crore from 193.29 crore at the end of 2017 elections to ₹307.92 so far this time. Meanwhile, seizures in Manipur – which is yet to go into polls, saw a whooping rise to ₹167.83 crore from ₹6.42 crore after the completion of 2017 assembly elections.
The highest seizures so far were found in Punjab wherein the figures rose by ₹421.27 crore to touch ₹510.91 in this year’s elections as against ₹89.64 in the previous one.
Notably, polls in Punjab similar to Goa and Uttarakhand have ended.
In the statement, the ECI stated that “comprehensive and advance planning” coupled with “meticulous follow-ups and active participation of enforcement agencies” have led to the rise in seizures in the ongoing assembly elections in the five states.
In order to do expenditure monitoring, the poll body further stated that it appointed experienced officers as expenditure observers, thereby sensitising and reviewing a “larger ambit of enforcement agencies for more coordinated and comprehensive monitoring” and “ensuring adequate availability of field level teams in the monitoring process”.
“The Election Commission held multiple meetings with heads of enforcement agencies like CBDT, CBIC, NCB, Excise and senior officials of bordering states to poll-going states for a thorough framework to ensure ‘inducement- free’ elections,” the statement read.
Details provided by the ECI showed that drugs worth ₹376.19 were seized from Punjab – which has long been combatting the menace, whereas in Uttar Pradesh liquor worth ₹54.08 crore was recovered.
The ECI said that for effective monitoring of money control during polls, it has deployed as many as 228 expenditure observers across the Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa, Punjab and Uttarakhand. “After due assessment, 63 Assembly Constituencies in these States have been marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for more focussed vigil,” it added in the statement.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the poll body also communicated to the chief electoral officers of the states a separate and dedicated format for “accounting of expenses on virtual campaigns for both candidates and political parties”.
The ECI said that efforts on close monitoring of seizures will continue till assembly elections are completed in all the five states.
Three phases of the seven-phase polls in Uttar Pradesh are left, and will conclude on March 7. Meanwhile, elections in Manipur will take place on February 28 and March 5.