Responding to uproar against central enforcement agencies like Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate officials have been conducting raids on the premises of BJP’s political opponents, including some of opposition candidates, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has advised the Finance Ministry that any action by them during election time should be `neutral’ and `non-discriminatory’.
It has also asked the ministry to keep its (ECI) officials in loop about such actions. In a letter to the Union revenue secretary, the poll panel said it would like to “strongly advise that all enforcement actions during the election period, even when conducted ruthlessly with a view to curb this blatant electoral malpractice, should be absolutely neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory.”
It added,” In case of suspected use of illicit money for electoral purposes, the chief electoral officer of the state must be kept “suitably informed” during the model code of conduct period.” Furthermore, the letter also highlighted that money power with the intention of influencing voters’ behaviour has over the years emerged as one of the biggest challenges for conduct of free, fair, ethical and credible elections.
The election commission’s advice came amid allegations that the Narendra Modi-led government was using the agencies to target rival parties ahead of the commencement of Lok Sabha elections 2019. Since the Model Code Conduct came into force on March 10, the I-T Department has carried out several raids on political leaders and their associates which the opposition has dubbed a misuse of central agencies during poll season.
There have been nearly 55 raids in the recent past by agencies under the Finance Ministry. They include recent on against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s close aides, while he and his son are contesting in the polls. Likewise, in Andhra Pradesh, raids were conducted on the premises of few of TDP candidates.