Record ₹4600-crore inducements seized ahead of polls, says Election Commission | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Record 4600-crore inducements seized ahead of polls, says Election Commission

By, New Delhi
Apr 16, 2024 04:28 AM IST

Compared to the corresponding period of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the current seizures represent a significant increase across all categories.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Monday record seizures of inducements in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, with a staggering Rs. 4,650 crore recovered in cash, drugs, liquor, precious metals and freebies between March 1 and April 13, which came to about 34% higher than the 3,475 crore value of materials seized during the entirety of the 2019 election campaign.

The Election Commission of India (For Representation)
The Election Commission of India (For Representation)

Compared to seizures made in the corresponding period of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the current seizures represent a significant increase across all categories: cash saw a 114% rise, while liquor and precious metal seizures increased by 61% and 43%, respectively. The most substantial increase, by value, was in drug seizures, which skyrocketed by 62% to 2,068 crore being recovered by enforcement agencies.

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“Enforcement Agencies have made a record seizure of over 4,650 crores in ECI’s resolute fight against money power even before the first phase of polling for the 18th Lok Sabha elections commences on Friday,” said the panel in a press note on Monday.

The commission attributed the increase in enforcement to deployment of advanced technology, such as the Election Seizure Management System (ESMS), and the collaboration of multiple enforcement agencies at both the central and state levels.

It marked 123 Parliamentary Constituencies as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for more focused vigilance and deployed 781 expenditure observers to monitor these constituencies, and also said it has taken “strict action” against 106 government servants who were found “assisting politicians in campaigning” in violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

“The seizures reflect ECI’s unwavering commitment to monitor inducements and curb electoral malpractices for a ‘level playing field’, particularly in favor of smaller and less resourceful parties,” the statement quoted Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar as saying.

The poll body said vigilance efforts were underway earlier in the year, and countrywide seizures in January and February totalled another 7,502 crore in cash, liquor, drugs, precious metals and freebies. “This brings total seizure to over 12000 crores so far with six weeks still left in the election period.”

Rajasthan recorded the highest seizures among all states and union territories, with a total of 778 crore, followed by Gujarat at 605 crores, and Tamil Nadu with 460 crore.

Among the seized items, drugs had the highest value in Gujarat ( 485 crore), while freebies were the most seized in Rajasthan ( 533 crores).

Punjab recorded seizures totalling 311.84 crores, with drugs constituting a significant 90.04% of the seized items.

By value, drugs were the single-largest component at 45% of the 4,650 crore worth inducements recovered. Freebies made up for the next highest recoveries by value at 1,142 crore.

Like this time, drugs accounted for the most value, ( 1280 crore) in the seizures during the corresponding period of the 2019 election campaign, but the second highest amount was in seized cash ( 844 crore). Freebies accounted for a scant 60 crore in the 2019 elections.

The authority said it is also focusing on drug-related seizures. “There was a substantial focus on drug seizures, which accounted for approximately 75% of the total seizures in January and February 2024.”

In the press briefing, Kumar said the commission had stressed on the strict compliance of civil aviation security rules on surveillance and inspection of “non-scheduled aircrafts” --- these are helicopters and private jets --- by Income Tax, airport authorities, police chiefs of the districts concerned, border agencies and GST authorities.

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