A polling officer closes an electronic voting machine after checking as his wife and child wait before they leave for a polling station on the eve of the state assembly election in Bishnupur district of Manipur. AP/Anupam Nath
The Election Commission (EC) has been forced to set up a cell to deal with the complaints sent to it from Gujarat.
There has been a flood of complaints from Gujarat trading bodies and a political party, seeking withdrawal or relaxation of expenditure monitoring measures which have been in force after the poll dates were announced.
“We have been receiving 5-10 complaints every day, seeking withdrawal of the expenditure monitoring measures ever since the day poll dates were announced. We have set up a separate cell under a joint secretary to look into these complaints,” said a senior official.
The EC is mandated to cut down the influence of money in elections.
“The complainants comprise 60 trading bodies, including the trade chambers who claim the economy of the cash-rich state has come to a standstill because of the EC. A political party has also filed a complaint,” the official said.
These trading bodies have already filed two PILs in the Gujarat high court while the Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO, has filed a counter-PIL.
While the EC has imposed a ceiling on poll-related expenses for state assembly seats at Rs. 20 lakh, it is believed that the actual expenses run into crores.
According to EC rules, whenever cash, gold and other valuable assets exceeding Rs. 2.5 lakh are found by the flying squads and static surveillance teams, the information will be passed immediately to the income tax (I-T) department.
I-T officials, in turn, will reach the spot in the shortest possible time for inspection.
Consequent to these complaints, the EC has modified certain clauses of the standard operating procedures on poll expenditure monitoring to esnure that small-time traders, farmers and citizens are not harassed by officials.
“If the cash found does not have any linkage with any candidate or political party or its functionaries and the cash amount is not more than Rs. 2.5 lakh, the amount will not be seized,” the modified instruction states.