By Kumar Vikram
New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS): An elaborate monitoring mechanism has been put in place to curb use of money power in the state assembly polls.
Officials said that comprehensive instructions have been issued for this purpose which include formation of Flying Squads (FS), Static Surveillance Teams (SST), Video Surveillance Teams (VST), involvement of State Police, Investigation Directorate of Income Tax Dept, CBIC, Enforcement Directorate, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU-IND), DRI, RPF, CISF, BSF, ITBP, ICG, Commercial Tax Department, Narcotics Control Bureau and Department of Post.
The Commission visited Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in September for reviewing electoral preparedness and dedicated teams also visited various regions of the two states in October to oversee preparations for the Assembly elections. The Commission, during its visit to both the states, held extensive reviews of the enforcement agencies, district authorities and police nodal officers to emphasize close and effective monitoring of items meant for influencing voters.
Moreover, the Commission has deployed 69 Expenditure Observers in Gujarat and 23 Expenditure Observers in Himachal Pradesh for effective monitoring.
Apart from this, the state excise departments have been asked to monitor production, distribution, sale and storage of liquor and inducements in the form of free goods during the election process.
The functioning and operations of the Flying Squads/Mobile Teams will also be closely monitored using GPS Tracking and the use of c-VIGIL App. For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of election expenses, candidates are required to open a separate bank account and meet their election expenses from only that account.
Besides, the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department has been asked to activate Air Intelligence Units at the airports of the states and also to gather intelligence and take necessary action to check movement of large sums of money.
Officials said that during the visit to Himachal Pradesh, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, while reviewing the preparedness of the districts and the enforcement agencies, emphasized tight vigil on illegal mining and areas like liquor, suspicious cash and products which have the potential to vitiate the elections.
On the same lines, the Investigation Wing of the Income Tax Department, which is one of the main participating enforcement agencies, conducted raids on stone crushing units at 27 premises in Himachal Pradesh and adjoining states and seized significant amounts of cash. It also conducted another search and seizure operation on manufacturers and traders of country liquor, where unaccounted cash was seized and discrepancies in stock and account keeping were observed. Seizures, particularly relating to liquor, drugs and freebies, have also been done by police, excise officials and other enforcement agencies.
The Commission, on November 7, also held a video conference with the Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretary (Home), DGPs, DG (Income Tax, Inv.), Excise Commissioners, IGP (Operations), CEOs of Himachal Pradesh and its neighbouring states and reviewed the law and order situation and steps taken to keep a vigil on inter-state border movement of inducements and sealing of borders during the electoral process.
The comprehensive planning, reviews and follow-ups by the Election Commission involving active participation of enforcement agencies have led to record seizures in the ongoing Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Gujarat witnessed seizures worth Rs 71.88 crores and Himachal recorded seizures worth Rs 50.28 crores till November 10.