The Election Commission on Sunday issued an advisory urging enforcement agencies to be neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory during the election period, the Hindustan Times reported. The advisory came amid allegations by Opposition parties that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was using central agencies to intimidate opponents.
“The Election Commission strongly advises that all enforcement actions during the election period, even when conducted ruthlessly with a view to curb the blatant electoral malpractice (of using money power to influence voter behaviour), be absolutely neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory,” the Election Commission wrote to the Revenue Secretary.
The poll body said the use of “money power” to influence voters has been one of the biggest challenges of conducting a free and fair elections and in the process, and it has undermined the “very fabric of our democracy”. “It is understood that all enforcement agencies working under the administrative control of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, must be undertaking enforcement actions based on a variety of inputs and actionable intelligence, as per extant laws,” the commission said.
The Income Tax department, Enforcement Directorate and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence are the executive arm of the Department of Revenue in dealing with financial crimes, according to PTI.
The poll panel said the chief electoral officer should be informed about suspected use of illicit money for electoral purposes when the Model Code of Conduct is in place.
The Income Tax Department on Sunday conducted raids at the Indore home of Praveen Kakkad, an officer on special duty to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. Similar searches by income tax officials were also conducted at 50 locations, which include those in Bhopal, Goa and Delhi too. Premises related to Nath’s nephew and businessman Ratul Puri were also searched. Nath accused the BJP of misusing state institutions to raid the homes of Congress leaders.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday claimed that the government was planning to conduct Income Tax raids at his homes. “We will welcome the search party,” he tweeted. The party veteran said he has nothing to hide. “They and other agencies have searched our residences before and found nothing,” he said. “The intention is to cripple the election campaign.”
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had staged a sit-in protest on Friday against Income Tax raids on his party’s candidates and supporters. Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was misusing the Income Tax department to threaten leaders of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress, calling it “revenge politics”.