Incumbent chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Congress candidate Rana Gurjit Singh, the richest of all 1,145 candidates in the fray, are among 80 candidates found indulging in the malpractice of paid news in campaigning for the Punjab assembly elections, voting for which was held on February 4.
Most of the candidates on the list are from prominent parties. Congress tops it with 30 cases, while 17 are from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), 16 from Badal’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), four from SAD ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and one from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In almost all the cases, vernacular dailies have been found publishing the paid news.
District-level media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) of the EC scrutinised the newspapers daily and made the list, which was finalised on Tuesday. The cost imposed will be included in the candidates’ poll expenditure. “In case a candidate proves that he had not paid for the news item shortlisted by the EC, we will deduct the cost imposed from the poll expenditure,” additional chief electoral officer, Punjab, C Sibin said. The defaulters thus would get a chance to go in for an appeal. Rana Gurjit, who was imposed a cost of Rs 40,000, has filed an appeal.
- News item stating that one candidate is getting support of each and every section of society and he would win election from the constituency
- Articles praising competing candidates on the same page of a newspaper claiming both are likely to win
- Identical articles with pictures and headline appearing in competing newspapers carrying different bylines
- Headline saying party/candidate is ready to create history in state/constituency but not carrying any news related to the headline
- News saying that good work done by a party/candidate had marginalised the electoral prospects of other party/candidate
Looking at the cost imposed, Darshan Lal, the Congress candidate from Balachaur topped with Rs 1.5 lakh for two instances.
A news item titled ‘Aao miliye Punjab di imandar shaksiyat nu’ (Let us meet an honest personality of Punjab), published in a vernacular daily, was identified as paid news by the SAD candidate from Samana, minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, on whom a cost of Rs 1.48 lakh has been imposed. ‘Brahm Mohindra da siyasi sitara purey peak tey’ (Brahm Mohindra’s political star at its peak) was one of the two paid news items about Congress candidate Brahm Mohindra, who fought against Rakhra.
As for CM Badal, the EC has imposed a cost of Rs 24,000 on him for a news item ‘Lambi mein voteron ka rujhaan fir Parkash Singh Badal ke paksh mein’ (Voters of Lambi again tilt towards Parkash Singh Badal). Sources in the EC said a complaint was received against Badal’s son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is president of the SAD, but it was found baseless upon scrutiny.
In terms of number of instances, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring of the Congress and Jagdeep Singh Nakai of the SAD top the list with five each. Ministers Tota Singh and Surjit Kumar Jyani are on the list too.