The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ticked-off Cong rushes poll guide

New Delhi, Nov. 7: After the Election Commissionís recent strictures against the Ajit Jogi government, the Congress high command is poring over the panelís instructions on poll expenses and the model code of conduct.

The Chhattisgarh government was ordered last month to transfer two district collectors for violating the code of conduct. It was also asked to suspend distribution of school bags with Jogiís portrait and message on them and stop transferring government publicity hoardings to the Congress.

In consultation with in-house legal experts, the Congress is preparing a detailed set of guidelines for party nominees and campaign leaders to ensure they comply with the code of conduct.

The use of money has also come under the unwavering glare of the poll panel, with candidates being told to submit expenditure accounts to poll observers or returning officers ďonce in three daysĒ.

The Election Commission has sent candidates a format to be followed for recording expenses daily during the campaign period. It has said the daily account sheet and documents supporting it should be made available for surprise checks.

The accounts will be displayed on the notice board of the returning office to ensure they are open to public scrutiny.

The Union cabinet recently raised the ceiling on expenditure for an Assembly candidate to Rs 10 lakh for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Rs 9 lakh for Delhi and Rs 5 lakh for Mizoram.

The amount includes money spent on the candidateís behalf by the party, individuals, groups and associations.

Poll managers believe the panelís directives might severely restrict the number of meetings a candidate can organise. Parties are now required to maintain detailed statements of expenses incurred on organising public rallies, including the cost of erecting pandals and hiring vehicles and mikes.

An exception has been made for travel expenses incurred by party leaders on the campaign trail. Up to 40 leaders per state will be exempt from including travel expenses in their list of costs. Parties have been asked to submit a list of 40 such candidates to the panel.

The Congress also expects the panel to keep a close watch on the movement of government officials and vehicles. The more so after chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh censured Jogi for misusing government machinery once the code of conduct had come into force in Chhattisgarh on October 6.

The Congress, which is in power in four of the five poll-bound states, is keen to avoid further slip-ups that could invite a rebuke from the panel.

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