Poll panel ropes in taxmen to curb money abuse

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi today unveiled a two-pronged strategy of strengthening enforcement mechanisms and promoting of ethical voting to curb money abuse during the 16 May Tamil Nadu assembly polls Nadu.

After a series of meetings to review preparations for the upcoming polls, he told reporters in Chennai that the main concern in Tamil Nadu was distribution of money, and unveiled the two-pronged strategy to curb the "menace effectively".

"All the Assistant Commissioners (Income Tax) have been given special authorisation to act as deputy directors, investigation for the election period and they have been fully operational in the past one or two days," he said.

Stating that tax authorities will be working on "actionable intelligence", he said the inputs would be available for "specially authorised staffers to take follow up action for detection of money and action against people".

He said I-T department has fortified its strength of personnel in this regard and which is "quite sufficient" and the state has now more than 700 personnel.

He said the EC "would like to increase the number of expenditure observers from the present 32 by several fold. Action is already underway and this would be unprecedented."

In consultation with the National Police Academy, probationary Indian Police Service officers will be deployed in the last week of electioneering to make flying squads more effective, he said.

Also, a "certain number" of police and expenditure officers will be deployed.

From May first week, the EC would deploy one central government employee to be part of the flying squad to "impart a strong element of neutrality, and Central (police, paramilitary) forces will also be made part of flying squads".

"In total, flying squads will comprise officials from central, state and central paramilitary forces."

On other aspect of promoting ethical voting, he said awareness campaigns that signify that both giving and taking money is an offence would be intensified.

"Focus of education (awareness) programme will be ethical voting, and penal provisions will be highlighted that both giver and taker of (money) are equally liable," and such key aspects would be publicised, the CEC said.

Also, celebrities will be roped in for the initiative and the slogan "my vote is not for sale", will be promoted through avenues like the media, cinema halls, special government video publicity vans and social media.

Besides such initiatives, a large number of people will be encouraged to take a pledge against taking money for voting.

District Election Officers will invite political parties and candidates to take pledge that they "will not distribute money to voters, and this will be part of our new strategy", he said.

Asked about allegations that distribution of money may have been done much earlier, the CEC said, "This has been brought to our notice and that is why we have re-strategised our action plan, which is being reviewed on an on-going basis." Asked if money has been seized from political parties, he said, "This is the direction in which we are working."

He said the monitoring committee to detect paid news was strengthened and added that the poll expenditure for undue publicity to any particular candidate provided by any TV channel will go into the account of that particular party nominee and not the party.

On deletion of bogus voters, he said there was no such thing as bogus voters on electoral rolls. "Voters are not bogus. Voters who are classified as multiple entries have been distorted as bogus."

Explaining, he said there were dead voters, and these were not bogus and these were cases of multiple entries.

The state poll authorities have done very good work and they have deleted over six lakh multiple entries from electoral rolls, he said. He urged the voters to re-verify their names on the rolls.