Times of India

RANCHI: The Election Commission (EC) faces a challenge in checking use of liquor and other intoxicants by politicians to influence voters in a tribal state like Jharkhand, where homemade rice beer is considered an essential component of life and is a part of several religious rituals. 

From lessons learnt in some northern states like Punjab and Haryana, the EC decided to crack down upon the use of liquor to ensure free and fair polls. In the run up to the assembly elections in Jharkhand, equal attention is being paid to use of money and liquor. 

Citing directions issued by the EC, chief electoral officer P K Jajoria on Saturday said he has issued instructions to all district returning officers to ensure that static surveillance team (SST)s, flying squad (FS)s and superintendents of police to check use of liquor and other intoxicants by politicians to influence voters. "The observers deployed for monitoring expenditure of political parties will also keep an eye on the different ways these parties adopt to influence voters," he said. 

Sudhir Pal, state convener of National Election Watch, said it would be a challenge for the EC and local administration to check use of liquor in Jharkhand. "Though the administration announces a dry day on the day of voting, it is practically impossible to check brewing and consumption of rice beer, which is a part and parcel of daily food habits in many households," he said. He added that 'khassi' (goat) tournaments organized here are also a way to influence voters as political parties often sponsor dinner and drinks during these tourneys. 

Though football matches in which goats are given as trophy is common in rural Jharkhand, the number and frequency of such tournaments increases during elections. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha recently organised JMM Premier League in Dumka in the second week of October. 

The idea was to establish man-to-man communication ahead of the elections. Similar championships are also organized to dole out benefits to the villagers.

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