Panaji, Aug 11: Ahead of the byelections in Panaji and Valpoi constituencies in Goa, the Election Commission has asked the Commercial Tax Department to keep a watch on the casinos to ensure "they are not misused to stash money" during campaigning for the bypolls to two Assembly seats.
The byelections to Panaji and Valpoi constituencies are scheduled on August 23. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is contesting from the Panaji seat.
"We have asked the Commercial Tax Department to keep a close watch on the activities of the on-shore and off-shore casinos so that they are not misused to stash money for campaigning by candidates or political parties," a senior official in the chief electoral office here told PTI today.
The state has five offshore casino vessels in the Mandovi river in Panaji while there are nearly a dozen onshore ones in the five-star hotels across Goa. The election officials have also asked the department to keep a check on the sale of motorcycles, and electronic and household items costing more than Rs 5,000, as they may be used to lure the voters, he said.
The sale and transportation of liquor is also being monitored, he said.
"This time too, we are keeping a strict watch on the activities of casinos since most of them are operational in Panaji, which is going to have the by-election," the official said.
The tax department is scrutinising the daily payment receipts of the casinos. A special flying squad has also been set up to keep a watch on the entry and exit gates of the casinos, and related activities, he said.
The Congress has fielded its senior leader Girish Chodankar against Parrikar. Goa Suraksha Manch president Anand Shirodkar is also in fray from the prestigious Panaji seat. In Valpoi, BJP minister Vishwajit Rane is pitted against Congress nominee Roy Naik, the son of Goa's former Home minister Ravi Naik.
The by-election in Panaji was necessitated after BJP MLA Siddharth Kuncolienkar resigned from the seat, to pave the way for Parrikar -- who returned from the Centre to head the BJP-led government formed in March this year -- to contest from the constituency. The bypoll in Valpoi was necessitated after Vishwajit Rane, who had won from the seat as the Congress candidate in the Assembly polls held in February, resigned and joined the BJP.