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Thursday, May 30, 2024

ECI Cracks Down on Money Power: Rs.100 Crore Seized Daily Since March 1

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is on track for the highest ever seizures of inducements recorded in the 75-year history of Lok Sabha elections in the country. Enforcement Agencies have made a record seizure of over Rs. 4650 crores in their fight against money power, marking a sharp increase over Rs. 3475 crores seized during the entire Lok Sabha election in 2019. Significantly, 45% of the seizures are of drugs and narcotics, under the special focus of the Commission. The seizures are a critical part of ECI’s resolve to conduct the Lok Sabha elections free of inducements and electoral malpractices and to ensure a level playing field.

The enhanced 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. In an incident in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, the Commission suspended the flying squad team leader for laxity in duty and selective checking of a cavalcade of a prominent leader. The Commission has also taken strict action against approximately 106 government servants who have been found assisting politicians in campaigning, thereby violating the Code of Conduct and instructions.

The Election Seizure Management System (ESMS), an ECI in-house developed portal, is proving to be a game changer in breaking silos and bringing all enforcement agencies on one platform through use of technology. The novel innovation for real time reporting of interceptions and seizures, avoiding duplication of seizures, was tested in the last round of Assembly elections. The portal facilitates digital trails and availability of seizure information at the click of a mouse, enabling quick and timely reviews at all controlling levels. As per data, 6398 District nodal officers of various agencies, 734 state nodal officers, 59000 flying squads (FS) and Statics Surveillance Teams (SST) have been on boarded on the ESMS platform for exhaustive real-time monitoring and updates.

The Election Commission has been working closely with enforcement agencies to combat the influence of money in elections. Senior officials have visited every State and Union territory to assess their performance and encourage vigilance against financial resource misuse during elections. Field-level personnel are also subject to ongoing reviews by Chief Electoral Officers, Observers, and District Electoral Officers.

The Commission has also emphasized the importance of joint teams comprising relevant agencies in inspecting inducements through various means during electoral visits to States/UTs. In January and February, countrywide seizures totaling over Rs 12000 crores were recorded in cash, liquor, drugs, precious metals, and freebies. Drug seizures accounted for approximately 75% of the total seizures in January and February 2024.

The Commission has collaborated with the Directorate General of the Narcotics Control Bureau to identify key routes and corridors for drug trafficking and ensure effective countermeasures are in place. Significant seizures have been made during elections to State Assemblies, including during the operation of Model Code of Conduct in states like Gujarat, Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Mizoram.

123 Parliamentary Constituencies have been marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for more focused vigil, as they have either had a history of distribution of inducements in previous elections or have inter-state and international borders with potential inflow of drugs, cash, and liquor. Senior officers appointed as Expenditure Observers serve as the eyes and ears of the Commission for a fair and inducement-free elections.

The cVigil app of the Commission has reinforced the expenditure monitoring process through complaints directly.

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