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Election Commission seizes Rs 1.67 crore cash, 8.7 lakh litres liquor ahead of Gujarat elections on December 9

The police seized 75,968 bottles of IMFL intended for distribution ahead of Gujarat Assembly Election 2017 from a building taken on rent by a resident of Uttar Pradesh under the pretext of running a metal scrap business.

GujaratElection2017 Updated: Nov 29, 2017 23:38 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Gujarat elections,Gujarat Assembly Election 2017,Narendra Modi
People attend an election rally in Gandhinagar. The Election Commission data shows its agencies have confiscated over £3,000 and 30,000 Thai baht from Navsari and Bardoli in Gujarat from money exchange dealers.(AP File Photo)

The Election Commission has seized over Rs 1.67 crore in cash, including foreign currencies, precious metal worth over Rs 8 crore, and 8.8 lakh litres of liquor in poll-bound Gujarat that has a strict prohibition law in place for almost six decades.

The poll panel’s data shows its agencies have confiscated over £3,000 and 30,000 Thai baht from Navsari and Bardoli in Gujarat from money exchange dealers. The 182-member Gujarat assembly will go to polls in two phases on December 9 and 14.

An official of the expenditure monitoring committee told the Hindustan Times there is no evidence so far that the foreign currency seized has any direct link to any political party or candidate.

“In Navsari, Rs 20 lakh in Indian currency and nearly £3,500 were seized from a man who claims to run a money exchange outlet. He claimed that it was the money that was exchanged by individuals but the case has been referred to the income tax department for further investigation,” the official said.

The western state has seen a spurt in the seizure of liquor and cash ahead of the polls. There were no cases of foreign currency hauls in any of the recently concluded assembly polls, according to election commission officials.

Officials seized Rs 2.18 crore during the 2012 assembly election and the cash seizure till Tuesday was Rs 1.67 crore. The amount of liquor that has been seized has also gone up significantly from Rs 1.57 crore worth of alcohol in the last assembly poll to liquor worth Rs 20 crore this time.

Earlier this week, agencies came upon Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) worth Rs. 2.2 crore. The police seized 75,968 bottles of IMFL intended for distribution ahead of the polls from a building taken on rent by a resident of Uttar Pradesh under the pretext of running a metal scrap business.

Distribution of cash, liquor, household items, jewellery and narcotics for the purpose of impacting election outcome is prohibited. The Election Commission countermanded polls in Tamil Nadu’s Aravakurichi and Thanjavur seats after finding evidence of voters being bribed last year for the first time.

The poll panel’s officials said the spurt in seizures of cash, liquor, narcotics and precious metals in the run-up to the polls is not limited to Gujarat. The trend was noticed during the assembly elections that took place in 2016 even after the Centre declared currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination as invalid.

Data from the poll panel shows that while Rs 50.78 crore was recovered in the 2012 assembly polls in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab, the amount went up to Rs 184.85 crore during the February-March polls this year.

Drugs and narcotics worth Rs 31.78 crore were seized from these states during the election period, while the seizures during the 2012 polls were worth Rs 54 crore.

To ensure free and fair elections, the poll panel has issued standard operating procedure for flying squads and static surveillance teams, that are formed to keep vigil over excessive campaign expenses, distribution of items of a bribe in cash or in kind, movement of illegal arms, ammunition and liquor.

To avoid inconvenience to people who carry cash for business or personal use, a panel of three officers of the district — CEO of the zila parishad, nodal officer of the expenditure monitoring committee, and the district treasury officer — is mandated to examine each case of seizure made by the police or squads.

If there is no evidence that the seized money is linked with any candidate or political party or any election campaign it is released to the concerned people.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 10:48 IST