On the orders of the Election Commission,vigorous checking of vehicles,frisking,and raids on hotels and guesthouses by the police have yielded nearly Rs 7 crore in cash allegedly meant for election purposes. In the last one week,the police and paramilitary forces manning pickets across the state have found currency bundles stashed away under the seats,trunks,inside rice bags and fruit crates.
With Chief Electoral Officer I V Subba Rao issuing a stern warning to the police and paramilitary forces not to show any leniency,no one,not even VIP cars,can pass the pickets without being checked. About 450 pickets and check-points have been set up on highways and roads,outside every city,town and village across the state. Gun-toting personnel from paramilitary and police force manually check each and every vehicle and frisk passengers.
Officials say though the check-posts had been set up a fortnight ago,the seizures coincided with days on which lists of candidates were declared by various political parties or a public meeting was scheduled to take place. The I-T department has put three officers on special duty to investigate the source of money that is recovered and unaccounted for during the election period.
The police in Nalgonda seized Rs 42 lakh in cash and 21 kg of silver bars from two cars. In Warangal,Rs 20 lakh was found in one car while Rs 10 lakh was found from a mini-truck in Mahbubnagar. About Rs 2 lakh was seized from a car carrying workers of J Krishna Rao,the Congress candidate from Kollapur in Mahbubnagar district. In Karimnagar,Rs 10 lakh was found in a guesthouse room where three pastors were waiting to meet evangelist Anil Kumar,son-in-law of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. In East Godavari,the police seized Rs 10 lakh from a convoy of three vehicles; Praja Rajyam Party leader and former minister of Prohibition and Excise in the TDP government,T Sitaram,was traveling in one of the cars.
In Hyderabad and Secunderabad,the police seized Rs 40 lakh,including Rs 10 lakh from a person on a two-wheeler.
Rao says the check-posts have been set up to prevent illegal and unaccounted money from changing hands,smuggling of arms and explosives,and flow of free liquor. Except for a jewellery delivery boy and a recovery agent of a private bank,none of the persons from whom cash was seized has been able to tell the source of the money,who it belonged to and for what purpose. In Polapalle in East Godavari district,two assistant managers of a nationalised bank got the scare of their life when the police stopped their vehicle and found Rs 35 lakh in cash. “Both of them were not carrying identity cards and the police team detained them. Both of them were so scared that for a long time they were not in a position to talk. Later,we contacted the branch manager and were informed that they were transferring cash to another bank. On Friday afternoon,we seized bundles of cash from the vehicles of at least six businessmen. They were unable to explain where they were taking the money,” said Nagi Reddy,SP of East Godavari.
“In some cases it was clear which political party they belong to. In others,the exact source and destination were vague. We seize the money and hand it over the local court or treasury after registering a case at the local police station. The Income-Tax department is informed for further investigation,” an officer of the Law and Order Department said on Friday.