The Election Commission of India [ECI] revealed on Friday that there have been “record seizures” of cash, liquor and other vote-winning freebies made in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat ahead of the upcoming state elections.
Himachal Pradesh goes to polls on Saturday while Gujarat will have its assembly elections on 1 and 5 December.
The chief election commissioner, Rajiv Kumar, stressed the importance of “inducement-free elections” and noted the significant increase in the amount of seizures made in Himachal Pradesh in particular.
He said that in Himachal Pradesh, there has been a five-fold increase in seizures as compared to 2017.
Gujarat witnessed seizures of cash and goods worth Rs 718.8m [$8.8m] in just a few days after the announcement of the election dates, which surpasses those made in the entire previous election period for the state assembly in 2017, which was Rs 272.1m [$3.36m], the ECI said.
The seizures in Himachal Pradesh amounted to Rs 502.8m [$6.2m] as compared to Rs 90.3m [$1.1m] five years ago, marking more than a five-fold increase.
The ECI statement attributed the record seizures in the two states to “comprehensive planning, reviews and follow-ups” by the commission.
The ECI conducts raids ahead of polls to seize any large stockpiles of cash, alcohol or any other potential freebie, particularly when those stashes are associated with a political party, to prevent them being used as give-aways for voter manipulation.
The commission urged citizens to remain vigilant and asked them to use the cVigil app – which enables people to photograph and take videos of any violations of the “model code of conduct”, the rules governing election periods in India.
Distributing cash and gifts with the intention of influencing votes during any electoral process in India is not permitted under the law.
The ECI says that this expenditure comes under the definition of “bribery”, and that expenditure on such items is illegal.