New Delhi: Political parties and their top leaders used "innovative ways" to bribe voters in the R K Nagar Assembly constituency in a bid to outwit authorities monitoring poll expenditure, an Election Commission probe has found.
Many complaints were received by the Commission about electors being possibly offered inducements. They included cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, milk tokens, money transfer in no frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers.
The Commission, which canceled the April 12 by-poll in R K Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu following evidence that money was used to influence voters, said in its order last night that some of the states have "particularly excelled in innovating more and more subtle ways to circumvent the statutory provisions enacted by Parliament to curb the menace of money power in elections".
In its elaborate 33-page order, the poll watchdog said it cannot help "expressing its anguish over the sordid state of affairs" as revealed in the reports of the election expenditure observers, monitors and Income Tax authorities.
The innovative ways which the political parties and their leaders at the top echelons have devised to bypass law enforcing authorities entrusted with keeping an eye on unauthorized and illegal expenses in election campaigns need to be dealt with a heavy hand, it observed.
"The top leaderships of the parties cannot feign ignorance about such illegal activities being indulged in by the candidates set by their parties, and also the managers appointed by their parties to oversee the election campaigns of their candidates.
It is high time that political parties exert their moral influence and legal authority to rein in erring candidates quickly "if democracy is to flourish and deepen its roots in our country", the order signed by the three commissioners said.
The order pointed out that an amount of Rs 18,80,700 was seized and 35 FIRs were registered until April 7 on the complaints of distribution of money, gift articles and violation of model code.
"Apart from cash, various items such as lamps, T-shirts, silver plates, mobile phones and sarees, which were used for distribution to workers, were also seized," it said.
The EC will come out with a fresh date for the by-poll which was necessitated following the demise of J Jayalalithaa.