Lucknow : Seizure of about Rs.40 lakh from two places in poll bound Uttar Pradesh Friday took the recovery of unaccounted money in the state to Rs.27 crore in the past few days.
“While we took several measures in the past to curb use of muscle power in the elections, nothing concrete could be done to check use of black money in the election, hence the crackdown on flow of unaccounted money this time,” chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said.
While it is widely believed that the seizures reflect the seriousness of the commission in enforcing the rule of law, there was simmering resentment against the move among the business community which feels that the EC move was a major impediment in the smooth flow of business activity. “Routine trading often requires instant cash transactions, but with the election commission targeting everyone carrying cash, this has become a major problem for all of us.” pointed out a local trader dealing in consumer goods.
However, Sinha feels, “this has proved to be the most effective way to check use of black money in elections.” Referring to the harassment of ordinary people , he asked, “I cannot believe that someone carrying unaccounted money in crores could be an ordinary person; and most of the people we have laid our hands on with huge cash looked well trained in handling big money.”
While most of the persons held with the cash were either drivers of vehicles in which the money was being carted or low-paid employees of influential politicians or businessmen, enforcement authorities had not cared to track down the bigwigs behind the money.
While Samajwadi Party MLA Bhola Paswan went scot free even after recovery of Rs. 6 lakh in his possession on Wednesday, the lesser known Purwal Singh was arrested in Etah Friday, after he failed to give explanation for the Rs.25 lakh cash he was carrying.
“Well the task is primarily carried out by special teams of the income tax department; but I am sure they must be making effort to track down the source of the money,” said the chief electoral officer. “As far as we are concerned, we can only register a case under the violation of model code of conduct when the candidate is directly involved in the offence.”
Still it is significant that as many as 1,084 cases were already registered for violation of the code of conduct.
In addition to seizure of unaccounted money, the election commission had also cracked the whip against circulation of liquor. As much as 1,16,375 litres of foreign and country made liquor had been seized by special excise teams deputed by the election commission in different parts of the state so far.
“Earlier, movement of liquor was checked only on the day of the polling or a day before that; but now we have made it a regular feature right from the day of the implementation of the model code of conduct,” said Sinha, adding, “we have also ensured seizure of 2,058 unlicenced weapons besides bringing about submission of 1.64 lakh licenced weapons across the state.”
Sinha hopes that the new measures will go a long way in ensuring a free and fair poll slated in staggered polls between Feb 8 and March 4 to elect Uttar Pradesh’s 403-member state assembly.