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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

It’s raining cash this election season

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 28, 2014
First Published: 21:29 IST(28/3/2014) | Last Updated: 02:20 IST(29/3/2014)

It’s raining cash and gold in this summer's general elections even though the first phase of voting on April 10 is still a fortnight away.

Election Commission sleuths across India has seized about Rs. 90 crore of unaccounted money from political activists, which they believe would have been used to allure voters. The seizure – made in the first 20 days of the 72-day election process – is huge compared to the previous elections in 2009, when a total of Rs. 190 crore was seized during the entire 75-day period of the polls. Along with the cash, EC sleuths have seized about 30 kg of gold worth Rs. 7.9 crore.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, we suspect,” said an EC official who didn’t want to be named.

Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states where the largest amount of unaccounted cash and gold was seized by sleuths -- Rs. 50 crore in cash and about 20 kg of gold, a state official told HT on Friday. The size of the haul might be related to the fact that along with the Lok Sabha polls, assembly elections in undivided Andhra will be held simultaneously in two phases on April 30 and May 7.

The money was found in sacks, public transport vehicles and boots of costly cars in Andhra, the official said.

Neighbouring Tamil Nadu comes a faraway second, with sleuths seizing Rs. 12.58 crore in cash and about 5 kg of gold. The money was found hidden in boats and underground and in vehicles of various kinds.

Uttar Pradesh, where many parties are known to skip across the boundaries of the law, came third with a recovery of just Rs. 10 crore. EC officials said states such as Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal were not far behind.

Despite teams of police and income tax officials in each of India’s 543 constituencies, EC officials admitted they may not be able to go much below the tip of the iceberg. “Many feel that if the commission imposes a ban on free movement of money it will hurt a large number of small traders,” an EC official said.

But these are early days and some more desperate parties and candidates playing for high stakes might enable vigilant officials to surpass seizure of Rs. 190 crore during the previous Lok Sabha polls.

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