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Panel eye on poll expenses

BJP workers welcome Assam party unit president Sarbananda Sonowal to Lakhimpur on Friday. He launched his election campaign with a road show in the constituency. He is contesting from Lakhimpur against the Congress’s sitting MP and Union minister Ranee Narah. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, March 14: The state election commission in Assam is putting in place an exhaustive expenditure monitoring mechanism to prevent candidates from using money power to procure votes in the Lok Sabha polls.

The monitoring mechanism will encompass rally expenditure to cash movements to sponsoring festivals like Rongali Bihu, which would coincide with the Lok Sabha polls in April.

There is apprehension that political parties and candidates might use the Rongali Bihu platform for making huge donations to attract voters.

An official in the state election commission at Dispur told The Telegraph that while senior central and state government officials would be keeping a track of expenditure to be made by candidates in the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies, the Election Commission would send its observers for the constituencies as well as the 27 districts in the state to closely monitor how candidates would spend money for electioneering.

The observers would also help create awareness against misuse of poll expenses, while a campaign would also be launched through the media, the official said. Ceiling per candidate expenditure for Lok Sabha seats has been fixed at Rs 70 lakh this time for big states and Rs 54 lakh for smaller states.

“The government officials and the Election Commission’s observers will strictly monitor expenditures of candidates during Bihu. We cannot prevent candidates to donate for Bihu celebrations. But we will try to ensure that the donations remain within the expenditure ceiling of Rs 70 lakh,” the official said.

According to the official, the poll panel would deploy a flying squad, static surveillance team and video surveillance team, which will work under expenditure observers appointed by the commission.

The flying squad, to be headed by a senior magistrate, will include senior field-level police officials and constables for each Lok Sabha seat. The official said they would move to the spot on receiving complaints of bribery. Seizures to be made by the flying squad will be video-graphed.

The static surveillance team consisting of a magistrate, police personnel and one videographer will be put up at checkposts and would make surprise search on vehicles and other suspicious movements to keep watch on transportation of cash or gold, the official said.

The election department has set up a complaint monitoring control room with a toll-free number (1950) through which the public can lodge various election related complaints, including use of money power in the election campaigns.