The latest moves by the Election Commission (EC) to check use of money power and “paid news” before the Bihar polls could signal tougher vigil for next year’s assembly polls in four states, ridden with allegations of bribing voters.
Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and his colleagues are keen that the measures are tried out in Bihar first, which goes to polls from October 21.
The EC will hold day-long deliberations on Monday in a bid to eliminate electoral malpractices. Six national parties and over 50 recognised state parties have been invited.
For the first time, the EC has decided to include the cost of “news” in the expenditure of candidates if they are seen as “paid news,” particularly if they exceed the ceilings on expenditure by resorting to “paid news” instead of issuing advertisements.
Earlier, the monitoring team comprising observers in each district used to keep a tab only on advertisements in newspapers and television, including cable TV and radio, but a new column has been added to provide “details of paid news” and cost of such paid news.
Also, every candidate must open a special account, which could be in his or her name or a joint account with the candidate’s polling manager.
A candidate has to disclose his revenue expenditure thrice. The candidate’s account will be matched by a “shadow register”, which will be maintained by the EC’s expenditure observer to keep track of the actual spending by candidate.
A “video viewing team” and a “media monitoring team” will keep tab on all expenses and “paid news” (for any advertorial in the form of news, which may have been paid for by candidate).
An observer and one micro-observer (preferably from the income tax department) are to be stationed in each of the smaller districts to monitor the candidate’s expenditures, two or more observers would be positioned in the larger areas.
After drawing lessons from n Bihar, the EC intends to enforce the measures in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry, where elections are due next May.