The Election Commission Sunday threatened to disqualify former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan as Nanded MP unless he came up with “a good reason” for incorrectly reporting his expenditure during the 2009 state assembly polls.
It said Chavan had “failed to lodge his poll expenses in the manner required by the Representation of the People (RP) Act and rules.”
The EC, acting on the Supreme Court’s order, had issued a notice to Chavan in May over alleged expenses made by him to publish news reports — believed to be “paid news” — praising his term as CM. On Sunday, it said Chavan couldn’t “validly claim ignorance” of the publication of the 25 ads and gave him 20 days to respond.
The EC, however, did not indict the 55-year-old for paid news, since the strikingly similar “news reports” couldn’t be held to have promoted his candidature in the state polls. Instead, “these have to be seen as general party propaganda” for the Congress, it said.
“I have not seen the order in detail yet. But (the issue of) paid news is ruled out totally,” PTI quoted Chavan as saying.
The EC order came on the complaint of former Maharashtra minister Madhavrao Kinhalkar, who lost to Chavan from Bhokar assembly seat in 2009. Chavan had tried to stop the EC probe by moving the high court and then SC.
In its order, the EC also rejected Chavan’s contention that the commission could not act against him as he was no longer a member of the assembly, which he quit this May after winning the Lok Sabha polls from Nanded.
A candidate disqualified under the RP Act for suppressing expenditure is barred from contesting further elections to any House of Parliament or state legislature for three years and from continuing as a member of any such House if he is a sitting member. “Therefore, the resignation …has no impact on continuance of the present proceedings,” the EC order said.
This comes as bad news for the Congress for if Chavan is disqualified, it will have just one MP in Maharashtra. The poll panel also cautioned the media on ‘paid news’, asking it to show “greater responsibility” with suitable disclaimers.