Village-level vigilance committee will be formed in each village in TN to check cash distribution during election campaign: P.K. Dash

Checking distribution of money by those contesting in elections posed a major challenge to the Election Commission, said N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner, in Chennai on Saturday. Speaking at ‘Campaign for Electoral Integrity’, organised by the Queen Mary’s College, Mr. Gopalaswami said the culture of distributing cash for votes began nearly six years ago.

Tamil Nadu had the dubious distinction of having introduced this practice in the country, he said.

The country had the maximum number of youths. They could think, discuss and choose the right candidate in the coming election. They should create awareness about free and fair electoral practices among family members and neighbours, he observed.

Dr. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice Chancellor, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, said introduction of the code of conduct for parties during campaign had put an end to muscle power. But, the Commission was unable to control distribution of cash. Another problem was increase in consumption of alcohol by people. This could lead to easy buying of votes.

G. Viswanathan, Chancellor, Vellore Institute of Technology, said when he contested the Assembly elections in the 1960s he was given Rs 4,000 to be spent. Till the 1980s, no member of the public expected money from politicians, but wanted them to complete some public work. However, the ‘Tirumangalam formula’ became popular across the country.

T.S. Krishnamurthy, former Chief Election Commissioner, M.G.Devasahayam, former civil servant, and V. Kanthimathi, principal, Queen Mary’s College, spoke on the occasion.

Village-level committees to keep watch

A village-level vigilance committee will be formed in each village in the State to check cash distribution during election campaign, said P.K. Dash, Director General (Expenditure), Election Commission of India.

Mr. Dash, who was talking to journalists at a workshop organised by the Commission, said District Collectors had been asked to form committees. Youths without any political affiliation would be selected and trained to monitor candidates. The Committee members would secretly record money distribution and upload the clip on the Election Commission’s website.

“Most of the time, cash distribution is done very quickly and by the time the authorities come to know of it, they will not be able to take action due to lack of evidence. To overcome this, the committee has been formed,” he said. Mr. Dash said this was the first time such a committee had been formed in the State. Praveen Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer, Tamil Nadu, said he was regularly reviewing the setting up of committees at the village level with District collectors. No deadline had been fixed by the Commission to form the committee, he said.

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