The influence of money on elections continues to be a malaise and “much more needs to be done about it”, said chief election commissioner (CEC) Navin Chawla on Saturday.
“Our observers are tough and they do intensive patrolling and take measures to check the use of money in elections. In the Karnataka elections, for instance, Rs 44 crore was seized. We have been successful to a point, but the malaise exists,” Chawla said before the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
The celebrations, marking the 60th founding day of the poll panel, start on Monday.
President Pratibha Patil will inaugurate the celebrations in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. Forty heads of electoral bodies from across the world will also be present.
“It’s a worrying phenomenon,” Chawla said on the practice of candidates paying newspapers to run favourable news during elections.
The ECI has sent notices to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan for buying news space to run propaganda and a delegation of the Editors Guild met the commission on Friday to discuss remedies. “If people begin to doubt the veracity and impartiality of the media, which is an important pillar of democracy, it is not a good situation. The Editors Guild wants the EC to play a larger role in tackling this issue.”
Chawla said the system of appointing Booth Level Officers (BLO) that started in 2003 has improved the accuracy of electoral rolls at the polling station level. “The commission is now urging political parties to appoint one Booth Level Agent (BLA) for roll revision. When BLOs and BLAs work in tandem, we will have perfect electoral rolls.”
Chawla, who was appointed commissioner in 2005 and CEC in April 2009, said that with each CEC, the institution has improved through innovations in good practices and technology. “For example, we have introduced in the 2009 elections a mechanism of micro-observers to oversee critical booths,” he said. “The ECI has evolved into a fine institution.”
Chawla said the welfare of government officials who risk their lives to conduct elections was a priority. Dependents of the victims are compensated with up to Rs 10 lakh within four days of the incident.
He said that those who raised questions over the functioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) had not been able to prove anything and the commission was “completely satisfied” with the technology. “We have not received a single complaint from ordinary voters. They are obviously satisfied with the EVMs.”