Thiruvananthapuram : The Election Commission on Thursday rejected the demand of certain political parties to raise the expenditure limit of candidates contesting Kerala assembly polls.
“We have a ceiling laid down which is Rs 28 lakh. Unfortunately, very few winning candidates report expenditure to this limit. They generally report only 40 to 50 per cent (of the limit amount),” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi told reporters after a day long review of poll preparedness with political leaders and state officials.
“So where is the justification to raise the expenditure amount? They do not even use that much amount. I think the current level is Ok, which we have revised two years ago,” Zaidi said.
“One or two political parties had raised this issue at the review meeting,” he added.
Asked whether the Assembly polls will be held in April or May, he said the Commission was still at the planning stage. However, he said the election process would be completed before May 30.
“We are in the planning stage. We have to consider large number of factors such as metrological, examinations, festivals etc. The Commission is still planning and therefore it is not possible to comment whether elections will be held in April or May,” he said.
Assembly polls are due in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry later this year. The ruling Congress in Kerala asked the CEC to hold the polls either in April end or May, while the CPI-M wanted it to be held in April.
On demand for curbing abuse of money and paid news, the CEC said the Commission would work out a robust strategy to check the practice by deploying large number of flying squads, surveillance teams etc.
For checking paid news, a media monitoring Committee would be operationalised without delay so that it is checked effectively. In this regard, he said the Commission had recommended legal amendments to treat paid news as offence. Anybody indulging in paid news should be subjected to penal action, fine and imprisonment.
“But that amendment is under consideration at the appropriate level,” he said.
On voting rights for NRI’s, Zaidi said that as per the amendments to Representation of People Bill, 2010, NRI’s were allowed to cast their votes. But they are required to be present at the polling stations for voting.
After the Commission received representations from NRI’s and a petition was filed in the Supreme Court on the issue, a committee was appointed, which recommended that they be given the facility of proxy voting and Electronic Postal Ballot facility. The committee has recommended legal amendments to the Law Ministry, which is under the active consideration of the government, he said.
“As and when the amendments come, the Commission will be ready to implement with in three months”, he added.
Asked whether it would be implemented before the coming polls, Zaidi said “I have already explained the status as on today. We are awaiting the legal amendments”.
Explaining the steps taken by the EC for holding polls, Zaidi said “EC lays great emphasis on error free electoral roll and we also ensure that all eligible persons are enrolled in the list”.
“We have given a slogan that ‘No voter shall be left behind”, he said, adding this is our motto and mandate and we attach great importance to every voter.”
EC would launch a short summary revision of electoral rolls from Feb 15onwards for ‘purification’ of electoral rolls through identification and verification of multiple entry, he said.
For the first time in the state, 17 constituencies would be covered with a new Voter-Verified Paper Audit trail, which will enable the voter to verify whether the vote has gone to the right person, he said. Strict instructions had been given to police to ensure a peaceful polling, he said, adding incidents of intimidation and preventing voter from casting would be viewed ‘very seriously’ by EC.
“DMO’s and SP’s would be personally responsible in case of any incidents of intimidation and threatening of voters,” he said.
On the strength of the Kerala electorate, he said as per the list published on January 14 this year, there are 2.56 crore voters. Among them 1.23 crore are male and 1.33 crore female. Kerala also has the distinction of having 100 per cent photo identity cards for voters and photo electoral roll.