Illegal flow of cash, kind, and intoxicants intended to be used in elections has been rising exponentially since 2014. Within a month the seizures made a record worth Rs 1760 crore, and that too for election of only five states in the country, as against seizure of Rs 300 crore in the entire country during the Lok Sabha election 2014. The reason is simple. More and more constituencies are becoming expenditure sensitive, that the country has created.
For the current state election, Election Commission of India has marked as many as 194 expenditure sensitive constituencies for close monitoring. Obviously, close monitoring in all the constituencies is beyond the ability and capacity of the Election Commission. That is why it is a matter of grave concern, for the General Election 2024.
Why expenditure sensitive constituencies are on the rise and how the ground level conditions have become fertile for receiving illegal cash, intoxicants, kinds, and freebees during elections could be a matter of research and the consequent solution apart from much desired election reform for their redressal, for which nothing is being done.
Election Commission has said that the current seizure worth Rs 1760 crore during election in five state – Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana – has increased more than 7 times since the last elections in the state in 2018 when the total seizure was worth only Rs 239.15 crore.
It should be recalled that in the past six state assembly election held in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Karnataka seizures over Rs 1400 crore were made, which was 11 times of the previous elections in those states.
During the Lok Sabha election 2019, cash, dugs, narcotics, liquor, precious metal such as gold and silver, and freebees intended for distribution among the voters, seizure of worth Rs 3,456 crore were made, as against only Rs 300 crore seized in 2014 Lok Sabha election. The exponential rise in seizure is just indicative of the very high amount of flow of illegal cash and kind during the elections, since close monitoring of it is just beyond the ability and capacity of the Election Commission of India, which just identify only a few expenditure sensitive constituencies for close monitoring. The seizure made in 2019 was nearly about 90 per cent of the amount the government had spent in conducting Lok Sabha election 2014.
The top ten states in the seizure list of 2019 Lok Sabha election were – Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Obviously, most expenditure sensitive constituencies are located in these states, which altogether send 353 seats in the Lok Sabha.
The data from seizure during the current election in the five states show that out of the Rs 1760 crore seizure, the share of Mizoram was the lowest only worth Rs 49.6 crore, with no cash and no precious metals. Liquor, drugs and freebees were seized.
Cash component was Rs 20.77 crore in Chhattisgarh with total seizure worth Rs 76.9 crore. Situation in Madhya Pradesh which has been known as 9th worse expenditure sensitive state as per 2019 Lok Sabha election, seem to be deteriorating fast. Seizure worth Rs 323.7 crore has been made.
Rajasthan was not among the top ten states in 2019, and therefore it may be shocking to know that during this election, seizure made in the state was worth Rs 650.7 crore. It shows that expenditure sensitive constituencies in this state have registered phenomenal increase. With seizure worth Rs 659.2 crore Telangana is also showing fast deterioration, which was not even in the top ten seizure states during the 2019 election. Election commission data shows that these five states show an increase of 636 per cent in seizure compared to 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections.
Seizures made in the past 6 state assembly elections – Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Karnataka – was Rs 1413.19 crore which was only Rs 127.41 crore during the elections five years ago in 2017-18. Thus, seizures increased by about 1009 per cent.
What emerges from the data is that expenditure sensitive constituencies are increasing fast and that is likely to impact the Lok Sabah elections 2014. Election Commissions will have a tough time in monitoring the situation arising out of it, as the exponential rise in seizures indicate.
Election Commission of India may be right is claiming that their monitoring system has been improved, but people should know that officials are not able or capable of close monitoring for all constituencies, but only for a select few which they declare expenditure sensitive constituencies.
The evil lies deep somewhere else in the political environment created by political ruling establishment, which has resulted into more and more illegal money, drugs, and freebees into the election process. Selective actions against opposition, and giving free hand to the ruling political parties facilitating free flow of illegal cash and kind to the electorate is another serious problem that cannot be ignored at this time.
India needs election reform to free it from the influence of illegal cash and kind, for free and fair election. (IPA Service)