New Delhi, Dec 2: The Election Commission of India (ECI) is keeping an eagle eye on the “rich” candidates contesting the assembly elections in Delhi. They will be disqualified if they cross the EC’s expenditure limit of Rs 14 lakh during campaigning. Senior officials in the Delhi Election Commission believe that the richer candidates will make efforts to cross this limit in some way.
“Unlike in the last Delhi assembly elections, this time the Delhi Election Commission has managed to set up one of the best surveillance teams to keep vigil over the rich candidates and the demeanour in which they spend money during their campaign, said Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi Election Commission, Rajesh Goyal.
He said any candidate going over the financial limit set by the EC will be disqualified from contesting the election. Especially under the microscope are the rich candidates who, feels the EC, could easily find the means to cover up the expenses incurred over the EC limit.
According to a recent release by the Association of Democratic Reforms, an independent election watch dog, at least a third of Delhi’s candidates are millionaires and the richest candidate is worth over Rs 200 crores.
The ADR Election Watch, which has analyzed the poll affidavits of some 800 candidates contesting in Delhi, says at least 33 per cent of them can count their money in the crores.
The average wealth of candidates has shot up within five years from Rs. 1.77 crores in the last assembly polls to Rs. 3.43 crores this time.
“The analysis by the ADR makes surveillance mandatory for the rich candidates”, added Rajesh Goyal.
Talking to IANS on the new procedure to maintain transparency about the expenditure incurred by the rich candidates, Goyal said unlike in the previous Delhi elections, the state poll panel will this time maintain a separate expenditure register called “shadow observation register” along with a separate evidence register for all the 810 candidates in the fray in Delhi.
The EC has already deployed three surveillance teams in all the nine districts, who are being assisted by videograph teams. They will record all the functions and events organised by the candidates of the various political parties, said Goyal
Later, the video teams will forward the videos to the Election Commission where the footage will be converted into CDs and closely scrutinized by the commission’s accounting team, Goyal told IANS.The accounting team will also estimate the price of the objects used at the events or functions and which were captured by the surveillance teams.
The estimated prices will be written down in the shadow observation register and will be tallied later with the price in the record maintained by the candidates.
“If there is no match between the record of the candidate and the shadow observation register maintained by the Election Commission, warnings will be issued to the candidate till the moment the expenditure incurred is less than 14 lakh but as soon as the expenditure exceeds 14 lakh, the candidate won’t be given any more warning and will be disqualified from contesting elections directly”, asserted Goyal.
He said the candidates will also face disqualification if it is found that they did not maintain the expenditure register as per the EC guidelines.
“This time we do not need any complaints from any one to keep a close scrutiny over the rich candidates. EC has been putting in all efforts to maintain transparency and make sure that the rich candidates do not make erroneous use of money”, said Goyal.
(Rupesh Datta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )