More Central observers likely to be deputed in Karnataka to monitor ‘money-powered’ elections

At ₹108.78 crore, the cumulative seizures of 2023 elections from March 29 when elections were announced till date is 5.40 times more than the 2018 election seizures

April 05, 2023 12:43 pm | Updated April 10, 2023 09:45 pm IST - Bengaluru

During the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, over ₹152 crore had been seized.

During the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, over ₹152 crore had been seized.

With money power being flagged off as a major concern in Karnataka, the Election Commission of India is likely to deploy more Central observers to keep an eye on the poll expenditure of political parties and candidates.

Since March 29, when the model code of conduct (MCC) came into force in Karnataka, the Election Commission (EC) has made seizures totalling ₹108.78 crore, including cash, liquor, drugs, and metals. The EC seized cash and articles worth nearly ₹58 crore (between March 9 to 27) even before the election date was announced.

As of April 10, the cumulative seizures of 2023 elections (from March 29 when the elections were announced) is 5.40 times more than the 2018 election seizures. During the corresponding period in 2018, a sum of ₹20.12 crore had been seized. Overall during the 2018 elections, over ₹152 crore had been seized.

“It is likely that one expenditure observer will be deployed in each expenditure sensitive constituency. The EC has identified 81 expenditure sensitive constituencies in the State. In the remaining constituencies, one expenditure observer will be in charge of every two Assembly segments to monitor election expenditure. District Expenditure Monitoring Committees involving State police, Excise, Investigation Directorate of the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate and Financial Intelligence Unit, among others, have been set up to crack down on electoral malpractices,” a senior EC official told The Hindu.

“As of Monday, nearly 150 expenditure observers have already been appointed and they will arrive in the State on April 13. More expenditure observers will be posted in the next few days, “ he said.

In 2018, the ECI had deputed 136 IRS, 156 IAS and 35 IPS officials from other States.

Surveillance deployed so far
2,040 flying squads, 2,605 static surveillance teams, 266 video viewing teams, 631 video surveillance teams and 225 accounting teams
Of the total 942 checkposts, 171 have been set up at inter-state borders 
District Expenditure Monitoring Committees have been set up

General observers

On March 29 while announcing the election schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar had said the Commission will deploy adequate number of IAS officers as General Observers, IPS officials as Police Observers at district and Assembly constituency level.

Besides, the ECI will deploy Special Observers from All India Services and various Central services. Adequate number of Expenditure Observers, who will exclusively monitor the election expenditure of the contesting candidates, will be deployed.

Sources said this time around, the number of such observers is likely to be double the number of officers deployed in 2018. 

“More money and liquor seem to be flowing in this election than in the past. IRS officials from the neighbouring States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, along with IAS and IPS officers from the north Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, will soon land in Karnataka,” the official said.

Surveillance teams

Seizures so far
Seizures totalling ₹108.78 crore, including cash, liquor, drugs, and metals have been made from March 29 till date
The EC had seized cash and articles worth nearly ₹58 crore even before the elections were announced (from March 9 to 27)
During the 2018 elections, a total of over ₹152 crore had been seized

The EC has put in place 2,040 flying squads, 2,605 static surveillance teams, 266 video viewing teams, 631 video surveillance teams and 225 accounting teams.  Of the total 942 checkposts, 171 have been set up at inter-State borders to track the movement and distribution of goods, and monetary transactions to ensure inducement-free election.

In 2018, a total of 1,344 flying squads and 1,255 static surveillance teams had been set up to monitor electoral irregularities and fraud. This was apart from 200 mobile squads of the Commercial Tax Department.

Manoj Kumar Meena, Chief Electoral Officer for Karnataka, said the ECI will take a call on the number of Central observers based on the need, sensitivity and assessment of the ground situation.

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