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EC designates 91 seats as sensitive, works to curb money influence


New Delhi: As many as 91 constituencies in Bihar are learnt to have been designated as ‘expenditure sensitive’ by the poll panel less than three weeks before the state goes to polls to elect 243 members to the state assembly.

Over 200 ‘expenditure sensitive pockets’ have also been identified in the poll bound state by the election machinery, ET has learnt.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the Election Commission of India last week with all poll observers.

‘Expenditure sensitive’ constituencies and pockets refer to areas with high possibility of political parties and candidates attempting to influence voters with freebies – in cash and kind, liquor, coupons and so on.

The 91 ‘expenditure sensitive’ constituencies of Bihar have been identified by the team of the state Chief Electoral Officer based on both – the profile of the constituency and the candidates in the fray.

The expenditure sensitive pockets – 204 of them in Bihar – are typically identified with the help of sector officers or the police in the constituency on the basis of the demography, level of education and overall development.

Instructions have already gone out from the ECI to ensure a close watch on all these constituencies and pockets.

Two special expenditure observers, both former Indian Revenue Service officials, have been appointed for Bihar by the ECI besides the team of expenditure observers (EO) deployed in the state.

Each EO will typically monitor two or more assembly constituencies, inspect the accounts of the candidates besides functioning of different teams engaged in expenditure monitoring in each constituency. The EO also coordinates with various law enforcement agencies of income tax, police, state excise, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB).

Additional EOs are deployed for expenditure sensitive constituencies to step up monitoring with more flying squads and static surveillance teams campaigning for ‘ethical voting’.

Liquor sales will be closely monitored in the pockets under watch and check posts are to come up in all these areas for a 24/7 monitoring 72 hours before the election day.

Bihar has been seeing a steady rise in illegal money flow during elections. The 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the state recorded election seizure worth Rs 8.7 crore and the figure had doubled to Rs 16.68 crore in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In the assembly elections in Bihar in 2015, seizures worth Rs 23.8 crores were registered by the EC machinery with Rs 19 crore of cash found circulating besides liquor worth Rs 3.45 crore. The state, which has banned alcohol, recorded seizure of liquor worth more than Rs 8 crore in the Lok Sabha polls last year.

The ECI has repeatedly identified money power in elections as the biggest threat to conduct of free and fair polls.

The poll panel has been attempting a range of measures to contain illegal money flow into elections and has even resorted to rescinding polls in extreme cases.

In 2016, elections to Aravakurichi and Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu were deferred after seizures of crores in cash besides goodies.

In 2017, the ECI rescinded the bylection to 11-Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly constituency of Tamil Nadu after seizures of goodies worth Rs 18 lakh.

Polls were postponed for the Rajarajeswari Assembly constituency, Karnataka, in 2018 after a truck carrying goods worth about Rs. 95 lakh was seized by a Flying Squad and another, concerning seizure of thousands of EPIC (Voter I Cards), Photo Voter Slips and Laptops.

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