State election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan feels that both candidates and parties need to exercise self-discipline to curb the unnecessary splurge on BMC polls. Excerpts from an interview:
Calculations based on information from political circles suggest that the civic elections are likely to see an expenditure of Rs700 –Rs750 crore, including money spent on bribing and other illegal means to influence voters. It is alleged that candidates spend up to Rs25 lakh or more on their campaigns, when the limit is Rs5 lakh. What will the State Election Commission do to prevent or discourage this?
It is well-known that a lot of money is swindled during the elections but there is not much we can do about it, with the limited resources at our disposal. There is huge hidden expenditure, which is difficult to prove. If a candidate resorts to using simple handbills and brochures, with a door-to-door campaign, the Rs5 lakh cap is sufficient.
Are both candidates and voters part of this corruption?
During every election, things are distributed to voters. In many areas, female voters are given saris and home appliances. A new trend is that parties have started compensating candidates by paying off their advance tax. Now, how do we track and stop this?
What is the election commission doing to keep a tab on this unofficial expenditure?
We have set up committees at ward levels and if there are complaints of excess expenditure, we do look into them, but we need proof. If it is proved that expenses are exceeding the limit, a candidate can be disqualified. We also put up affidavits of candidates online, to make the asset declaration process transparent.
Isn’t there any way to curb this unnecessary splurge?
There is just one way – people should not fall prey to monetary attractions and we should mature as a society. Both candidates and parties need to exert self-discipline.