With five major parties out to bag as many seats as they can in the October 15 elections to the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, money is flowing freely in the state.
In the past few days, the election authorities and the police have seized Rs. 12 crore in cash from functionaries of several parties.
On Thursday alone, the authorities seized Rs. 1 crore at Amalner (Jalgaon), Rs. 50 lakh in Dahisar (Mumbai), Rs. 70 lakh in Nagpur, and Rs. 80 lakh in Buldhana. Besides, Rs. 20 lakh was seized in Ambegaon (Pune) allegedly from the vehicle of BJP candidate Jaisingh Erande.
A day before, the authorities had seized Rs. 5 crore in Indapur (Pune) and on Tuesday Rs. 4.5 lakh was seized from a vehicle in NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s convoy at Gangakhed in Parbhani district. In most cases, the cash was seized from vehicles and those transporting it could not give satisfactory explanations about what it was for.
In Dahisar, the flying squad of the election authority intercepted the campaign vehicle of BJP candidate Manisha Chaudhari near Phadke bridge and found Rs. 50 lakh in it.
“We took Chaudhary’s vehicle and the cash to Borivli police station. Since the recovered cash is over Rs. 10 lakh, we referred the case to the Income Tax department. After verification by it, we will take further necessary action,” said Tushar Mathkar, returning officer for Dahisar constituency.
BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said “We have learnt that the money found in Chaudhari’s vehicle was withdrawn from BJP’s official bank account and it had bank slip as well.”
In Mumbai’s suburbs, the election authority seized cash worth Rs. 2.5 crore in several intercepts in the past few days, said Mumbai suburban collector Shekhar Channe.
Ajit Pawar on Thursday said the cash found belonged to his party. He said the party had given him Rs. 8 lakh for election purpose of which Rs. 3 lakh was spent.
In some cases, however, there was no explanation by the parties or persons involved.
After the two major alliances in the state broke up, all prominent parties are unsure about the mood of the voters. So efforts are on to lure them. Better vigil by Election Commission is also a reason behind the number of cash seizures.
“Although distribution of cash is not a new phenomenon, candidates are inclined to focus on distribution of money to ensure victory in multi-cornered contest, in which all parties are fighting to show their dominance in the state politics, said Sharad Kumar of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
“It is true that strict vigilance is behind seizing of huge amount of cash. However, it seems all parties are banking on money power in pursuit of getting most of their candidates elected amid multi-corner contest,” Kumar said.
All five prominent parties in the state – the Congress, the BJP, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the MNS — are contesting elections separately.