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Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll-purse ban hits 3300 candidates

New Delhi, Feb. 26: As many as 3,300 candidates have been disqualified from contesting elections because they failed to submit their expenditure accounts for polls conducted between 2001 and 2004.

“These candidates are spread all over the country. The highest number of defaulters — totalling almost a thousand candidates — is in Uttar Pradesh,” Election Commission spokesman A.. Jha said at a news briefing today.

The 3,300, however, do not include any big names and are mostly Independents or from small parties. The major national parties have been careful not to tread on the poll panel’s toes as it insists on scrupulously following the rulebook.

Section 10A of the Representation of People’s Act requires candidates to submit details of their poll expenses within 45 days of the elections and in a “manner” required by the law.

A candidate who cannot come up with a viable explanation for not providing the expense account would be barred from contesting for three years.

The act has also been recently amended to disqualify candidates who provide incorrect information in their affidavits about educational qualifications, movable and immovable assets and criminal records, if any.

The amendment had followed a Supreme Court judgment requiring candidates to come clean on their assets and criminal antecedents, if any.

The commission said it is compiling data on the candidates who have been disqualified on these grounds. “As of now, we do not have the figures,” Jha said.

The power to disqualify these candidates, however, does not rest with the commission. “The issue can be taken up in court,” Jha said. The candidate accused of concealing information can get elected and continue to represent the constituency till the court delivers a verdict.

The commission’s duty is to put the information in the public domain as this is just one of the poll panel’s mechanisms for cleaning up the electoral process. Each returning officer is expected to display the candidates’ affidavits on the notice board and inform the media.

The political parties reluctant at first to subject themselves to the scrutiny had yielded following the apex court judgment.

Tour exemption

The Election Commission has exempted the tour-spend of prominent political leaders from the enhanced expenditure limit of Rs 25 lakh a candidate for the general elections, reports our special correspondent from Chennai.

Announcing the decision at Raj Bhavan here today, election commissioner B.B. Tandon said the exemption would be applicable to 40 top leaders of recognised parties and 20 from “registered parties”.

Their names would have to be submitted to the commission a week before the poll date and would then be publicised, he said. All candidates’ poll expenditure would, however, be more strictly monitored this time, Tandon added.

Other initiatives include the setting up of “complaint cells” in all districts and “helplines” in all urban centres and district headquarters, seven days before polls, to answer voters’ queries.

Tandon said that guidelines for the use of private television channels for campaigning would be published after a high-level meeting tomorrow in New Delhi that will include the information and broadcasting secretary.

He said the revised Tamil Nadu electoral rolls as on January 1, 2004, was ready following “net deletion” of 20 lakh, not all of which were “bogus voters”.

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