The Election Commission-appointed surveillance teams have seized suspect cash, jewellery and other inducements worth over Rs 120 crore in the poll-bound Karnataka, a senior official said on Saturday.
Cash amounting to over Rs 67.27 crore, over five lakh litres of liquor worth Rs 23.36 crore, gold valued at 43.17 crore and other items such as pressure cookers, sarees, sewing machines, gutkha, laptops and vehicles, among others, worth about Rs 18.57 crore, have been seized, he said.
The official said Rs 32.54 crore in cash, out of the total seizures of Rs 152.78 crore, has been released after verification. The figure also includes seized narcotics worth more than Rs 39.80 lakh, according to official data since the declaration of the elections for the Karnataka assembly.
The seizures have been made by various surveillance, police and income tax department teams that have been deployed in the state by the poll panel to check the use of black money and illegal inducement
When compared to the 2013 elections, the seizures have shot up by over 350 per cent. Election Commission officials have been busy and have relied heavily on intelligence inputs to seize money. With 4 more days remaining for the campaigning to end, EC officials expect that the cash seizures would go up considerably.
Investigations have shown that a bulk of the money had been withdrawn from ATMs over the past two months. 90 per cent of the seizures reported were in the denomination of Rs 500 and 2,000. This could be the possible reason why there was a cash crunch in the ATMs, sources say.
The highest withdrawals were reported from Karnataka, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It was found that the money was withdrawn over a period of two months and brought into Karnataka. It was then hoarded and was meant to be used during the elections. In one of the seizures, a handler was found in possession of Rs 3 crore in cash. Of this, Rs 2 crore was found hidden in his car, officials say. In another incident, officials seized Rs 1.22 crore in cash from a car on the Bangalore-Pune highway. It is suspected that this money was being transported for election purposes.
The importance of this election can be seen in the amount of cash that has been seized. During the Karnataka elections in 2013, the cash seized was Rs 14.42 crore. This year the figure has shot up to Rs 65 crore already and there is still over a week to go before the election process is complete. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, seizures recorded from Karnataka stood at Rs 28 crore.
There is a ceiling of Rs 28 lakh per candidate. But looking at the election heat, it seems as though this money would have been spent in the first few hours of the campaign itself. It is just not cash that is being splurged around for the campaign. There are sarees, pressure cookers and in the Malnad region one candidate has made available bore well drilling machines for prospective voters.
There is liquor as well which has been seized in large numbers. This year alone 4.49 lakh litres of liquor have been seized. This is a mighty jump when compared to the 68,000 litres that were seized in 2013. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, EC officials had seized 45,000 litres of liquor.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|