New Delhi: The majority of candidates contesting polls in India are "under-reporting" their expenses and inadequate laws to regulate political funds may lead to a "fearful" situation where institutions go under the "control of money" and holding fair polls becomes difficult, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi said on Tuesday.
He said the existing regime for regulating donations received and funds raised by political parties are not "deterrent enough" to check black money and illegal inducements that are used to lure voters and disturb the fair play ground of the electoral process in the country.
"With the passage of time, elections are becoming expensive. Ordinary citizens, even with outstanding personal record and public service, cannot even dream to contest elections. Available resources are being garnered by few political parties and their candidates. This situation is
making parties dependent on money power with all adverse implications on the society and polity.
"...in the absence of such regulations, it is feared that various institutions can be under control of money and holding free and fair elections can become increasingly difficult, Zaidi said here while addressing a global conference.
While talking about the Indian electoral perspective, the CEC said their data "indicates that candidates are under-reporting expenses within the prescribed ceiling.
"Out of 535 winners in the last Parliamentary elections, expenses of majority of winners reported to the EC were in the range of 40-80 per cent only. In reality, as we all know, candidates spend several times their legal limit to run election campaign," he said.
As per EC guidelines, a candidate trying his luck at public office for Lok Sabha polls can spend upto Rs 70 lakh while those fighting Assembly polls have the upper limit of RS
Zaidi was speaking while inaugurating the regional conference of South Asian countries on the theme-- 'Use of Money in Politics and Effects on People Representation'.
Amongst the various ways abused to breach the spending limits by candidates, he said, was by the way of including in paid news instances.
"Now, how these spending limits are violated...it is violated by candidates by indulging in paid news...by spending huge amounts under the garb of paid news," he said.
The CEC said in the past few years, several hundred cases of paid news have been detected by its teams and expenses incurred on these have been added to the accounts of the candidates.
"However, since candidates in any case under-report, adding these expenses to the candidates accounts is not affecting their limits and therefore the candidates are escaping the legal scrutiny of law," he said.