ECI’s seizures at Rs 4658.16 cr so far, highest-ever for Lok Sabha polls

Table based on the Election Commission of India’s April 15 press note and ECI’s ‘Seizure Report’ by for 17th Lok Sabha.

Table based on the Election Commission of India’s April 15 press note and ECI’s ‘Seizure Report’ by for 17th Lok Sabha.

Seizures valued at Rs 8.19 cr in Nagaland; no cash or precious metal so far

New Delhi, April 15 (MExN):  Even before the first phase of polling for the 18th Lok Sabha elections commences, 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 crore (Rs 4658.16 cr), significantly higher than the Rs 3475 crores seized during the entire Lok Sabha election in 2019, the Commission informed in a statement on April 15. 

The status is as of April 13 and translates to around Rs 100 crore seizures each day since March 1 across India. 

As per the ECI data, at Rs 2068.85 cr, 45% of the seizures are drugs and narcotics, a special focus of the Commission. It was followed by freebies worth Rs 1142.49 cr and precious metals at Rs 562.10 cr. The seizures also included liquor worth around Rs 489.31 cr and Rs 395.39 in cash. 

Interestingly, Nagaland was the only state with ‘nil’ seizure of cash and precious metals. Seizure of Freebies or Other Items Value valued at Rs 4.93 cr led the State’s seizures, followed by drugs at Rs 2.99 cr and 26,537.76 litre of liquor valued at over Rs 26 lakh. 
The total seizure in Nagaland, as on April 13, stood at a combined Rs 8.19 cr, a total which is more than twice the total seized in the 2019 LS polls, when the total stood at around Rs 3.76 crore. (See table for comparison)

The Union Territories of Puducherry, Lakshadweep and Ladakh were the others with ‘Nil’ cash and precious metal seizures. 
The seizures have been possible by comprehensive planning, scaled up collaboration and unified deterrence action from agencies, proactive citizen participation and optimal engagement of technology, the ECI said. 

The enhanced seizures reflect ECI’s unwavering commitment to monitor inducements and curb electoral malpractices for a ‘level playing field’, particularly in favour of smaller and less resourceful parties, it maintained.

Meanwhile, the Commission informed that the flying squad team leader in Tamil Nadu was suspended for laxity in duty and selective checking,  while strict action has been taken against approximately 106 government servants found assisting politicians in campaigning.

ESMS- game changer
As per the ECI, one game changer for the record seizures is its in-house developed portal - Election Seizure Management System (ESMS) which brings all enforcement agencies under one platform through use of technology.

This real time reporting of interceptions and seizures, avoiding duplication was tested in the last round of Assembly elections, it said. 

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 ESMS platform for exhaustive real time monitoring and updates, it added. 

Meticulous planning
Another factor was involvement of largest number of Enforcement Agencies from both Centre and States for collaborative effort, the poll body said. 

The Agencies included  Income Tax, state Police, RBI, SLBC, AAI, BCAS, State Civil Aviation, Enforcement Directorate, Dept. of Post, CISF for Cash & Precious Metals; State Police, State Excise, RPF for Liquor; State Police, NCB, ICG, DRI for Narcotics; CGST, SGST, State Transport Department, Customs, State Police for CGST, SGST, State Transport Department, Customs, State Police; and Assam Rifles, BSF, SSB, ITBP, CRPF, Forest Department, State Police for border and other agencies.

In addition, months prior to elections and more intensively from January, senior officials visited every State and UT to emphasise the importance of combating the influence of money in elections, it said. 

Districts were thoroughly reviewed, and discussions were held with Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police (DGPs), and heads of enforcement agencies to assess their performance and encourage heightened vigilance, it added. 

Field-level personnel are also subjected to ongoing reviews by Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs), Observers, and District Electoral Officers (DEOs).

As a result, in the months leading up to the official announcement in January and February, nationwide seizures totalling Rs 7502 crore were recorded, the ECI said.

This brings total seizure to over Rs 12000 crores so far with six weeks still left in the election period, it highlighted.

Focus on Narcotics
The Commission also stated that substantial focus on drug accounted for approximately 75% of the total seizures in January and February 2024. 

Collaborations were made with the Directorate General of the Narcotics Control Bureau and its senior officials to identify key routes and corridors for drug trafficking and ensure effective countermeasures, it said. 

A total of 123 Parliamentary Constituencies, with history of distribution of inducements in previous elections or have inter-state and international borders with potential inflow of drugs, cash, and liquor, are marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for more focussed vigil, the ECI stated. 

A total of 656 Expenditure Observers have been assigned to Parliamentary Constituencies, while 125 are deployed in Assembly Constituencies as the eyes and ears of the Commission, it noted. 

Special Expenditure Observers with a brilliant track record of domain expertise and experience have also been deployed in States/UTs, it added.

The use of cVigil app has also reinforced the expenditure monitoring process through complaints directly from citizens on distribution of any type of inducements

Since announcement of election schedule, a total of 3262 complaints have been received pertaining to distribution of cash, liquor and freebies, it added.