Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu a challenging case but we can't close our eyes: CEC

With over Rs. 42 crore in unaccounted cash already seized in various parts of Tamil Nadu ahead of the April 13 Assembly polls, the Election Commission has directed its officials to intensify vigil and continue checking vehicles and suspected places to totally curb “money power.”

At any cost, the officials, including returning officers, general and election expenditure observers and their subordinates, should ensure that there is a level playing field and the polls are held in a free and fair manner, the Commission directed.

A Commissioner-level IT officer, who has been deputed to the EC with the designation of Director-General (Expenditure Monitoring), is constantly monitoring the developments, particularly cash seizure and poll expenditure of political parties/candidates, reliable sources said.

The EC has also received information that in some places some parties are distributing to voters tokens, to be exchanged in selected shops for cash or other materials. “We have specific intelligence on this and raids are being conducted to unearth the entire operation and nab the culprits. In fact, some persons have already been taken into custody,” the sources added.

As per the recent EC direction, the officials were told to focus even on small amounts of cash like thousands. For, as the poll date neared, such illegal transactions to woo voters might increase at the village level or the ward level in cities, they said.

Rejects DMK, PMK charge

PTI reports:

Terming Tamil Nadu a “challenging case,” the EC has said it cannot “close its eyes to rampant malpractices” there, and rejected the charge of the DMK and its ally, the PMK, that it had brought about an emergency-like situation in the State.

“Can we be faulted for discharging our constitutional responsibilities sincerely and earnestly? Can we close our eyes to the rampant malpractices?” Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told PTI.

The EC has enforced stringent measures to curb money power in the Assembly elections, especially in Tamil Nadu where there have been widespread attempts to bribe voters. Through a series of steps that were “unprecedented even by our own standards, officials have seized unauthorised cash of over Rs. 53 crore, of which Rs. 42 crore is from Tamil Nadu alone,” Mr. Quraishi said.

Brushing aside the criticism by the two parties, he said the EC was “not exceeding” its powers. “We are within our constitutional mandate. Any criticism is totally unfair and we dismiss it.”

DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and PMK founder S. Ramadoss had attacked the EC, alleging that an Emergency-like situation was created in Tamil Nadu, while it was not prevalent in the other poll-bound States.

“Holding free and fair elections is always the top priority. We also seek to make the polls peaceful, transparent and participative,” Mr. Quraishi said. “We are enforcing expenditure control measures in great detail in these elections to check the role of money power. Tamil Nadu has been a challenging case. But we are doing our best, and will not allow any let-up.”

He said: “It is quite normal for a political party to be unhappy with us because we do not allow the misuse of official machinery in any way; whereas all Opposition parties look up to the Commission as a fair umpire who does and must ensure a level playing field,” he said.

The EC action was intended to not only check expenditure over and above the ceiling but also mop up the unaccounted cash, gift items or liquor meant to bribe voters. “The intention is not to hurt anyone but to stop the malpractices. When the security protocols are in place, certain hardship and inconvenience are inevitable.”

Mr. Quraishi said he had a meeting with political parties recently to inform them of the new guidelines so that there would be no surprise. And the parties emphasised that the EC should take stringent measures to curb money power. “All that we are doing is implementing those guidelines and the wishes expressed by all political parties. Any criticism is totally unfair and we dismiss it.”

Seeking the cooperation of all in fighting money power, he said: “In fact, we have been receiving enthusiastic response from the public.”

Making it clear that the rules were strictly enforced not just in Tamil Nadu, he said the model code was in force in all four poll-bound States and one Union Territory. “What we are doing in Tamil Nadu or, for that matter, in other poll-going States is only a strict enforcement of the model code and the expenditure control and monitoring rules.”

Noting that parties of Tamil Nadu even wanted a code of conduct for the media, on which the EC was working, he said: “It is, therefore, surprising when the EC is attacked for doing what all parties want it to do.” “Let this one be clear to one and all. In carrying out the Commission's sacred duty, assigned by the Constitution, we will not dither. It does not matter if there are no accolades; it does not matter [either] if there are brickbats. The EC will stay the course.”

“Our action is not against any political party or persons; it is against violations and crimes. We believe all stakeholders will understand this, and people have full faith.”

As for West Bengal, Mr. Quraishi said law and order had been a challenge in the run-up to the elections, but with some determined action, the EC brought the situation under control. “We continue to keep a strict watch over the situation there.” The State government was fully cooperating with the EC and complying with its instructions and guidelines very earnestly. “So far, they [the West Bengal government] have not given us any occasion to complain. We do appreciate this and hope that the same spirit of fair play will be in evidence till the election process [ends].”

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 12:36:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Tamil-Nadu-a-challenging-case-but-we-cant-close-our-eyes-CEC/article14675778.ece

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