A team of Election Commission officials led by Rawat was in Bhopal on a two-day visit to take stock of the poll preparations in the state.

Bhopal: Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Wednesday said the poll panel had seized cash, liquor and freebies worth Rs 51 crore in Madhya Pradesh in the run-up to the elections and called it a concerning trend for democracy.

A team of Election Commission officials led by Rawat was in Bhopal on a two-day visit to take stock of the poll preparations in the state. The commission officials reviewed the arrangements with top officers and also met representatives of political parties to hear their objections and suggestions.

Speaking to the media, Rawat said they had seized Rs 19 crore cash in the last elections but the amount had crossed Rs 21 crore this year. “Adding the value of confiscated liquor, drugs, freebies and gifts, the tally of the total seizures adds up to Rs 51 crore till now,” said Rawat.

The former MP cadre IAS officer said the tally of seizures could soar in the 12 days left for campaigning and called it a disturbing trend. “These things should be stopped and the commission is committed to cap them,” he said.

When asked if the commission would prevent election staff owing allegiance to social and religious organisations, especially the RSS, from discharging their duties, Rawat said the EC was of the view that any particular employee could only be removed from his duty if the commission received inputs about his participation in said groups.

Rawat said for the first time in the history of state, VVPAT machines would be used with EVMs in the state and certain polling booths would be managed only by women.

The commission also received suggestions and objections from political parties. While some parties demanded CCTV cameras outside polling booths to check voters turning up on more than once to cast their vote, some of them wanted deployment of the Central Reserve Police Force at polling booths.

There were also complaints that Returning Officers had objected to voters putting up flags of parties on their houses. Responding to the same, Rawat said the step was taken to make sure voters were not forced to put up the flags they could submit a written undertaking with the ROs in case they faced inconvenience.

The other requests included checks on ambulances ferrying cash during polls, action against false promises made by politicians, criminal action against those complaining against electoral rolls and a demand to keep 'anganwadi' and ASHA workers away from poll duty as they could be biased towards the state government.

Emphasising that the commission was committed to holding "free, fair and transparent" elections, Rawat said Twitter had suspended two fake accounts of the EC on Wednesday.

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