New Delhi: The Election Commission feels that Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Goa may pose problems on use of money power in the upcoming Assembly elections.
"We feel that Punjab and Uttar Pradesh will give us problems on the money front. And so will Goa, because money plays a big role," Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi told a news agency in an interview, when asked if EC foresees problems
in any of the poll-bound states.
Already, the Commission`s fears are turning true with huge cache of money bags being recovered in states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. So far, as much as Rs 7.5 crore has been seized from Uttar Pradesh and a similar amount of cash has
been recovered from Punjab.
The CEC said the Commission will also keep a tab on paid news during polls, besides also on the television channels and newspapers owned by various political parties and account for the expenses incurred on election campaigns for candidates of their respective political party.
"We are aware that political parties have their own channels and newspapers. This is also disturbing the model code and level playing field," said Quraishi.
"After Tamil Nadu, we have now prepared our guidelines for channels owned by political parties themselves. We will count the number of hours on TV and space given in newspapers and see their rate cards and then divide it among the total
number of candidates for which the campaigns are done," he said.
The CEC said unfortunately there is no cap on expenditure of political parties during polls, but the expenses incurred by them would be added proportionately to the candidates` expenditure.
Quraishi said, "In case there are five candidates on the stage, then the total expenses incurred on the political rally is divided among the candidates on the stage and added to the expenses of each candidate by dividing the total expense".
Talking about the Election Commission`s success on paid news, he said at least 120 such cases were detected in Bihar alone during the last Assembly polls and a total of 230 or 240 complaints from other the five states that went to polls.
He said EC has fine-tuned its guidelines now to tackle the menace. "We have also framed some guidelines on paid news. In most cases of paid news, the violators agreed and decided to apologise for it.
"We issued notices to those people and in most cases they (violators) confessed that they had paid for paid news and agreed to account for it in their books in the expenditure statements," he said.
The EC has already disqualified one person for paid news - Umlesh Yadav, who contested in 2007 as a Rashtriya Parivartan Dal MLA from Bisauli Assembly constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
On the flow of illegal money during polls, he said Tamil Nadu has proved a success story on stopping this flow where Rs 60 crore were seized from the state alone out of a total of Rs 73 crore seized from all five states that last went to polls.
"We have strengthened our election expenditure machinery. We will be keeping a tap on airports, railway stations and inter-state bus terminus, from where the money may come in for use during elections," Quraishi said.
Listing out the steps taken by the EC in this regard, he said an expenditure monitoring division headed by a Director General from Income Tax office and a senior IT Commissioner, has been set up within the Commission.
Besides, air surveillance units have been activated for keeping an eye on state airports to see where money is coming into the state.
"We will also be watching the railway stations, Inter State Bus Terminus from where money may come in... These will all be covert operations to keep an eye on the activity and catch any unauthorised money use during elections. We will
also keep an eye on farmhouses and hotels, because they are mostly distribution centres for money during elections.
"We had first tried out our election expenditure machinery in Bihar. It was then that we fine-tuned our guidelines and when used it in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu turned
out to be a success story. Our belief is that for every one crore that we seize, we must have stopped Rs 50 crores," he said.
Quraishi said EC has also decided to have micro observers inside polling booths this time and additional expenditure observers to check the misuse of money power and drugs during the Assembly polls.
Incidentally, the Election Commission has already sought amendments in law to make paid news an electoral offence.
The Commission has on February 3, 2011, proposed to the government an amendment in the Representation of People Act, 1951, to provide therein that publishing and abetting the publishing of "paid news" for furthering the prospect of
election of any candidate or for prejudicially affecting the prospect of election of any candidate be made an electoral offence under Chapter-III of Part-VII of the act with
punishment of a minimum of two years imprisonment.