New Delhi: Cash seizures in five poll-bound states have crossed Rs 113 crore till now with Tamil Nadu recording four times more interceptions than other states.
According to latest data compiled by the Election Commission (EC), surveillance and expenditure monitoring teams deployed by it in Tamil Nadu have seized a total of Rs 68.31 crore cash till now.
"The Income Tax department is doing the maximum number of big seizures here. In the last one week only about Rs 12 crore cash has been seized on suspicion and information that it could be used as an illegal allurement to induce voters," a senior IT department official said.
The 234-seat Assembly of the state will go to polls in a single phase on 16 May.
The seizures of cash in the south Indian state are at least four times more from the other four poll-bound states with Rs 17.84 crore seized in Kerala till now followed by Rs 14.56 crore in West Bengal, Assam Rs 12.33 crore (polls ended) and Puducherry Rs 71.53 lakh.
"The total progressive figure for cash seizures in the poll-bound states is Rs 113.76 crore. In some cases, the cash is being released after ascertaining the bonafide and legitimate purpose of the cash," the official.
He added the Central Board of Direct Taxes has also asked IT department's field investigation offices in Tamil Nadu to remain extra cautious and alert in the wake of the huge seizures being made in the state and the fact that the polling is about a fortnight to go now.
Keeping in mind the abuse of money power in Tamil Nadu, the EC last week had also issued some special instructions to be followed by observers and members of the surveillance teams deployed in the state.
The Commission has sought a "stepped up vigil" across Tamil Nadu to detect and intercept all such instances of illegal cash and other inducements being used to lure voters and ensure that a level playing field is maintained.
While the two-phased Assembly polls have concluded in Assam, in West Bengal the fifth and sixth phases of polls are scheduled for 30 April and 5 May.
Single phase polls will be held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry on May 16. The counting of votes in all the five states is slated for 19 May.
All the seizures have been made by EC-appointed special flying squads and surveillance teams and by officials drawn from the Income Tax department, Customs and Excise and police.
The Model Code of Conduct came into force on 4 March after the Commission had announced the schedule for the Assembly polls here.
The Commission, in its recent directive to authorities deployed in Tamil Nadu, had directed all enforcement agencies in unequivocal terms that they should come down heavily on the offenders in all such cases.
"The Commission has directed vigilance and monitoring to be stepped up across the state in the run up to the elections and number of such search and seizure actions will be further intensified to curb any such unaccounted money gaining access to the electoral process.
"Movement of cash, liquor and gift items will be strictly monitored. Strict action will be taken against persons attempting to induce voters by bribing," the EC had said.
The Commission had also asked the officers deployed for these vigilance tasks to ensure a high and honest conduct.
"Prejudiced conduct of any member of election expenditure monitoring team will also be viewed very seriously and strict action will be taken against such erring personnel," the fresh directives had said.
In order to ensure a fair playing ground in the state during the polls, the EC has ordered increase in the number of flying squads and surveillance teams, inclusion of officials from the central government and central PSUs in the flying squads, deployment of central police forces among others.
Teams of the IT department and others have conducted a number of search operations in the state since polls were announced and in one such incident in Karur district it seized Saris, dhoti and similar items worth Rs one crore recently.
"Teams of special observers have been deployed in the state to review the preparedness. Further, the number of expenditure observers has been increased several times.
"Probationary officers of the Indian Police Service will also be deployed in each district to actively participate in expenditure monitoring and operation of the flying squads," the EC had said.
A total of 702 flying squads and 712 surveillance teams are operating in the state for curbing the use of black money at the hustings.
"The Commission has also directed to mount the campaign for ethical voting and encourage members of political parties, candidates and voters at large to take pledge for ethical voting," it had said.