By Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Even as India’s largest political drama is preparing for its final run, the Election Commission(EC) has tightened the noose around the neck for all the political parties and their candidates.
To ensure that the party candidates and political parties comply with the model code of conduct (MCC) in Delhi, the state election commission has formed various teams to oversee the compliance of the MCC.
The commission has put into place 214 flying squads, against the required 210 in accordance to the number of assembly constituencies in the State Capital to swoop down on the floatation of cash and liquor.With each team stationed for an eight-hour duty, three teams are scheduled to work during the entire day.
Another contingent put in to place is the static surveillance team (SST) whose number is 210. The SST team keeps a vigil on the arterial road. Its formation and working hours are same as the flying squad.
“It is not possible for our surveillance team to locate mobile vehicles carrying large amount of cash or liquor since there are so many ways to give us slip. Surveillance teams have had an easy time in small towns and villages which are connected to a single arterial road,” says an election official.
“Consisting of 3-5 police officers with a videographer to record any suspicious activity, the video surveillance team records the arrangement of a political rally to assess the expenditure incurred by a party or candidate,” add the officials.
The Delhi state election commission said that so far, since the enforcement of model code of conduct 120 First Information Reports(FIRs) have been filed against the political parties; and the list is topped by the Bhartiya Janta Party(BJP) clocking 19 cases.
The Congress (INC), the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the BSP and SP have 19, 13, 11, 5 and 1 FIRs registered against them respectively in contravention to the model code of conduct. The highest number is 70 for enlisted in the “others” category.
According to the election officials, Rs. 30 lakhs has been seized until Wednesday — in a single haul from North Delhi on May 21. The case was later transferred to the income tax(IT) department as per the rule books which state that cases of cash haul above Rs. 10 lakhs need to be handed over to the IT officials for further course of action.
But cash seizure is not an easy task points out an election official. “In the last Assembly election, we held a businessman with Rs. 4 lakhs. After receiving unsatisfactory answers from him, we registered a case. Eventually we got to know that he withdrew the cash to pay his employees. So overall, it is a herculean task to nab perpetrators,” he said.
On the liquor distribution front, primarily aimed at influencing voters, the commission has roped in the services of the excise department officials who coordinate with the expenditure monitoring cell.
Until Wednesday, around 800 litres of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL), over 15,000 litres of country liquor and 358 beer bottles have been confiscated.
The mechanism to curb malpractices vis-a-vis liquor is through a daily sales record maintained by the excise department which coordinates with the expenditure officers.
“If a surge in liquor sales is identified, we sense some foul play and send our team to investigate. However, candidates try to outwit us by striking a secret deal with the shop owners; hence hiding the daily revenue,” revealed an expenditure official.
Taking a dig at the candidates trying to over conceal electoral expenditure, the official revealed that in a Chandni Chowk rally, the Congress workers were clandestinely seen distributing booklets with Kapil Sibal’s mug shot emblazoned on it. The expense on the booklets was duly listed under Sibal’s account (A Lok Sabha candidate’s expenditure ceiling is Rs. 70 lakhs in Delhi).
Another instance, cited by the official, occurred when a cultural programme was hijacked by an AAP candidate and used for scoring political brownie points. The candidate had to bear the whole expenditure for the event.
“We make every effort to ensure that electoral anomalies are kept at bare minimum. Therefore, creating equal opportunities for all candidates in the Indian elections,” the source contended.
Constantly criticized by the politico big guns for cracking its whip too hard on the parties, the task of the election commission is no joke. The sheer scale of “trying to manage” the morals of a complex society of political parties and candidates and making them play by the rules is in itself an achievement.