The Election Commission of India flagged the three southern States in the country – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – for having the highest incidence of money playing a key role in the elections.
In his first ever meet ahead of polls, the Chief Electoral Officer of Andhra Pradesh Bhanwar Lal said poll expenditure as well as paid news was the highest in these States during last couple of elections.
States like Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh too have been identified as sensitive in terms of excessive and undue expenditure during polls. Speaking at a session organised by the government on ‘Election Expenditure Monitoring and Paid News’, Mr. Bhanwarlal said: “It was found that over 50 per cent of the candidates have reported expenditure much lesser than the actuals. Some of the press entities are found to be directly working for political parties. The incidence of paid news too was very high.”
He, however, said the desired morals were displayed in States like Assam where payment for votes was strictly opposed by public. “Offering or taking money for voting in polls is a crime. One can be imprisoned for a year for committing such a crime. The media should play a major role in educating public in this regard,” said P.K. Dash, Director General, Election Expenditure, ECI.
Warning media houses against airing paid news, Mr. Dash said the Press Council of India would take serious action against such publishing houses if found guilty. Free Flying Squads (FFS) and Static Surveillance Teams (SSTs) along with magistrates would be deployed in the forthcoming polls to keep a tab on the flow of liquor and money, he said. “This apart, any report on such issues written in the media will be taken as a formal complaint and investigation will be initiated. Public rallies and ad campaigns will be strictly monitored,” Mr. Dash said.
Though there were no formal reports by the EC on poll-related misappropriations, market estimates reveal that in A.P. alone, the paid news and other related expenditure is close to Rs.300 crore. The expenditure for a Lok Sabha election is over Rs.20 crore and it is about Rs.4 to Rs.5 crore for Assembly.