In an effort to curb “money power” in elections, poll authorities in Andhra Pradesh have constituted special committees to monitor expenditure of the candidates on a daily basis in the by-polls to 12 assembly seats scheduled to be held on July 27.
“The expenditure of candidates is being monitored even earlier by a process of getting the accounts submitted by the candidates scrutinised by the EC observer, the district Collector and the Returning Officer. But this was being done only partially and we need to strengthen the mechanism,” state Chief Electoral Officer I V Subba Rao told PTI.
“So, we decided to set up a committee consisting of four senior officers. One from the Revenue department, another from police department and a senior official each from the Commercial Taxes and the Income Tax department,” he said.
The committee would actually go to places where public meetings and processions are being held and assess the expenditure incurred by each candidate.
The monitoring is done on a daily basis and they would communicate the information to the District Collector who sends the compiled report to the Election Commission, he said.
If the expenditure exceeds the stipulated Rs 10 lakh for an assembly constituency, the EC has the power to debar candidates for a period of three years, he said.
“It is quite a stringent law and we would like that to be enforced so that the influence of money power is reduced,” Subba Rao said.
The special committees is said to be a first of its kind move in the country. In addition to the constitution of expenditure monitoring committees, the upcoming polls have other unique features too.
After a gap of 12 years, the EC is forced to conduct the polling in five of the 12 seats through the ballot box system as the number of candidates has exceeded the maximum limit of 64 candidates for using EVMs.
The existing technology does not allow the EC to conduct the polling by EVMs if the total number of candidates in an assembly segment is more than 64.
“We are making necessary arrangements. We are finding out where the old ballot boxes are and if necessary we will get some more made. We are coping with this contingency which has arisen now,” Subba Rao said.
The requirement of ballot boxes is expected to be 2,500 big boxes or about 7,000 small ballot boxes and the modalities are being worked out, he said.
Necessary arrangements are also being made for printing ballot papers and to train personnel on ballot box system.
To a query, the CEO said the EC is prepared to handle the situation if malpractices like booth capturing occur.
The election panel held polls with ballot papers way back in 1998. Perhaps in another first, a video-grapher and a micro-observer, a Central Government employee, would be on duty at every polling station in the by-polls, Subba Rao added.
The by-polls in the 12 seats are necessitated as sitting MLAs had quit their posts in support of separate Telangana.