Poll panel watching! Punjab goes low on ladoos, posters (Punjab Newsletter)January 21st, 2012 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS
Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) Had it not been for the media, both print and broadcast, people in Punjab would never have known that an election was happening for 117 assembly seats. With the poll panel keeping an eagle eye, candidates are trying not to make a show of things.
Most places across the state are sans colourful hoardings, party posters or flags even as Punjab goes into the last 10 days of campaigning for the Jan 30 polls.
Be it Bathinda, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana or any other place, voters are not feeling the excitement of assembly polls being around the corner.
With the Election Commission (EC) keeping a strict vigil on the actions and expenditure of candidates and parties, they have chosen not to flaunt their presence with posters, flags and hoardings.
“Everything, from posters and flags to ladoos, are being counted by EC officials. They all add up to the expenditure of the candidate. Even if ladoos are distributed, the EC has fixed the rate of Rs.80 per kg to be added to the expense of the candidate. Even for a small gathering, up to 50 kg of ladoos vanish in just 10 minutes,” a Congress candidate from an assembly constituency in Patiala district told IANS.
In fact, union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, who was campaigning for her son Raninder Singh in Patiala’s Samana constituency, was heard this week telling Congress supporters after a small election event not to distribute ladoos till the leaders left as this would have added to the expenses of the Congress candidate.
Under EC guidelines, the total expenses allowed to a candidate for an assembly seat are Rs.16 lakh. The candidate has to submit proof of the expenses incurred.
“Leading parties and candidates themselves are also shying away from putting up posters and flags. Otherwise, markets and public places used to be full of these earlier. This time, both the election colour and fever are missing,” Bathinda resident and trader Ram Nath Singla said.
Not only the EC officials but also candidates are keeping a close watch on the expenses of their opponents.
Sitting Congress legislator from Bholath constituency in Kapurthala district, Sukhpal Singh Khaira himself led a team to get a truck-load of liquor confiscated by the police and election officials last week in his area.
A case was registered against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Jagir Kaur, who is a former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president, at Khaira’s behest after 183 cartons of liquor were seized.
“The FIR against Jagir Kaur and her supporters, who were ferrying the illegal liquor to distribute among people, was registered reluctantly by police officials only after pressure from EC officials and me,” Khaira said.
Even though the elections were announced last month and candidates filed their nominations by Jan 12, candidates and parties are also shying away from holding too many big rallies in their respective areas since the expenses of the same get added to their account.
“Getting a star campaigner or big leader is an expensive affair. If they come by helicopter, the cost in lakhs gets added to the candidate’s expenses. No one wants that to happen,” a candidate in Hoshiarpur district told IANS.
Even leaders like Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh are making minimal use of their chartered private choppers to avoid the expenses from going up.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: amritsar, assembly polls, assembly seat, assembly seats, congress candidate, congress supporters, constituency, eagle eye, ec guidelines, election commission, election event, external affairs, hoardings, kaur, ludhiana, minister of state, punjab, samana, strict vigil, union minister