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EC curbs put candidates in a fix

- Game of money, star power and divinity to woo electorate

Shillong, Feb. 3: Elections have fairly become inconspicuous with the Election Commission keeping a watchful eye and imposing accountability on candidates. This has even apparently forced candidates and political parties alike to alter their campaign styles.

The intense campaigning has ebbed largely in view of the expenditure limit imposed by the commission on candidates. Since December 1997 onwards, the commission has put curbs on the expenditure to be incurred by candidates in both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

For Lok Sabha seats in bigger states, it is now Rs 25 lakh while in other states and Union territories it varies between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh.

Similarly, for Assembly seats in bigger states, it is Rs 10 lakh while in other states and Union territories it varies between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh (in Meghalaya, candidates can spend only up to Rs 8 lakh).

“The accountability imposed on the candidates and parties has curtailed some of the more extravagant campaigning that was previously a part of Indian elections,” the commission had stated in its website.

The election authority has also put general observers and expenditure observers in every election to ensure that rules are not twisted to the advantage of any particular candidate or political party.

With the restrictions in place, candidates have also shied away from organising too many public rallies although bringing a huge crowd to showcase their strength is vital to put the other contenders in panic.

Currently, house-to-house visits are more common, especially in the urban constituencies. However, such meetings are no longer inconspicuous even in the rural belts although the scale and intensity may not be similar to that in the urban areas.

Agnes Kharshiing, president of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation, an NGO, said the campaigning has been largely suppressed by candidates because of fear of poll-related laws although the undercurrents speak otherwise.

She also rued the fact that even with restrictions in place, those with money power still get elected as representatives.

“In the past where money power was not in place, people elected true representatives. But now, even with many restrictions, the big shots with money get elected,” Kharshiing said to drive home the point that the undercurrents are strong although on the surface the campaigns are largely modest.