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Poll splurge cloud on Mamata & rivals
- Showcause looms; observers draw fire

Calcutta, May 6: The expenditure observer for Calcutta South has found prima facie evidence that Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s campaign cost has crossed the ceiling.

She is likely to be served a showcause notice. The same fate awaits Mamata’s rivals — Rabin Deb of the CPM and Nafisa Ali of the Congress.

Election Commission sources said on condition of anonymity that all three candidates had spent more than the Rs 25 lakh limit. A.K. Singh, the expenditure observer, initially declined to comment. Pressed, he said: “We send reports to the commission on a regular basis. The expenditure on campaign by candidates of Calcutta South constituency is under scrutiny.”

However, the commission official said: “Once the notices are issued, the candidates are expected to come up with explanation. If they are not satisfactory, the commission may even disqualify the candidates after a thorough inquiry.”

Returning officer of Calcutta South D.K. Chaudhury is expected to issue the notices.

Mamata was not available for comment as she was busy campaigning till late night. Her aide Partha Chatterjee said the party had not heard about such a development. “We have followed all the rules,” he said.

Deb claimed that he regularly submitted reports on expenditure to the commission. “I think it is satisfied with my expenses.”

Nafisa said: “I will have to check with my office.”

The development coincided with chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy’s move to seek a report from an observer in the state charged with “overstepping limits”. The observer was accused of “creating panic” among voters.

Commission officials spoke to another observer about allegations against him.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose had alleged that some of the observers were “acting like political leaders”.

Chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee said Krishnamurthy told him this morning that the observer against whom charges had been levelled must send a report explaining the incidents to the commission. Banerjee refused to name the observer but said he had conveyed the message to the person concerned.

Bose had charged more than one observer with bias. One of them was Swarnamala Rawla. The Asansol observer had allegedly asked people in Ranigunj why they had been voting for the CPM. Bose said that she wanted to know if they were bribed and told them that she would make it difficult for the CPM to win the Asansol seat, which includes Ranigunj.

The front chairman had also named Diamond Harbour observer A.Y.R. Krishna Rao, who was accused of trying to influence senior police and administrative officers to work according to his instructions.

The observer for Katwa had apparently asked voters there if CPM supporters used revolvers during polling.

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