It is just a fraction of the black money, drugs and booze being splurged by political parties this poll season. But the value of the seizures by Election Commission has already touched Rs.1,100 crore, enough to half-fund the budget for carrying out the world’s largest elections.
EC staff member holds an envelope containing polling material after collecting an electronic voting machine and other election material at a distribution centre on the eve of polls in Mumbai. (AFP photo)
The seizures include 13 million litres of liquor, enough to fill 43 swimming pools; over 20.71 lakh kg of narcotics and a whopping Rs. 240 crore. The total worth of the confiscated items is a record high, the commission officials said.
The value of these items, confiscated since the model code came into force on March 5, is around Rs. 1,110 crore. And it is besides the Rs. 50 crore seized by the income tax department.
Put together, the seizures account for more than half of the poll panel’s initial expenditure estimate for conducting the nine-phase elections — Rs. 2,000 crore. Five years ago, Rs. 1,300 crore was the poll expenditure.
But for PK Dash, director general in-charge of expenditure monitoring in the commission, it shows “higher spending by candidates or their agents” despite the per constituency expenditure limit being increased to up to Rs. 70 lakh.
But rather than help stop the inflow of black money, it has resulted in an increase as the commission believes that seizures are less than 10% of the total black money in circulation to bribe voters.
“The truth of the Indian elections is money and muscle power. It cannot be curbed unless the government brings in legislative checks,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of the Association for Democratic Rights.
In Punjab, where voters are being lured with drugs, the commission has seized narcotics worth Rs. 550 crore. Chhattisgarh ranks high on the seizure of ganja (cannabis).
Confiscated cash and liquor, especially in the southern states, have given the poll body another headache — of keeping these in safe custody since these are case property and have to be produced in a court as evidence. While drugs and liquor are destroyed after the cases are disposed of, the money is deposited with the revenue department.