All party meeting called by EC: All parties except BJP want poll expenditure capped

By: | Published: August 28, 2018 12:54 AM

All parties barring the BJP supported the idea of capping election spending at a meeting of all recognised national and state parties called by the Election Commission on Monday.

The Election Commission convened the meeting ahead of elections to several state assemblies later this year and the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for early next year. (PTI)

All parties barring the BJP supported the idea of capping election spending at a meeting of all recognised national and state parties called by the Election Commission on Monday. The BJP, the richest political party in the country, was the only one to argue against any restriction on election-related expenditure of political parties. At the meeting, attended by more than 20 parties, each was given 10 minutes to make a presentation on election-related issues.

Rajya Sabha member and BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, who along with Union minister JP Nadda represented the party at the meeting, told The Indian Express that since all political parties have to declare their expenditure in their income-tax filings, “usmein kisi prakaar ki capping nahi lagai jaani chahiye (there should not be any cap)”.

Yadav said elections should be based on issues, and not on caste lines, “muscle power” or “criminal power”. The parties, he said, “should not be restricted”, rather “usmein zyaada se zyaada prachaar karne ka avsar aur suvidha deni chahiye (parties should be given more opportunities and facilities to advertise)”. He said there should be transparency in “crowd-funding”.

But smaller and regional parties — and other national parties — were of the view that unlimited spending by political parties gives them an advantage over small parties who cannot hire star campaigners or use as many resources as the bigger parties.

Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik said his party too was in favour of a cap, but for that a “formula can be worked out on how this can be done”.

PTI adds: The Election Commission said it would provide “satisfactory solution” to the concerns raised by political parties on the infallibility of electronic voting machines (EVMs), after some of them pitched for returning to the ballot paper system at the all-party meeting.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said, “We will definitely look into
all the suggestions given by them (political parties) and there will be a satisfactory solution to them.”

The Election Commission convened the meeting ahead of elections to several state assemblies later this year and the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for early next year. It is customary for the poll panel to listen to political parties ahead of elections.
In the meeting, several Opposition parties raised the issues of EVM tampering and technical glitches in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system.

Representatives of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Trinamool Congress were among those who raised these issues and many of them also suggested going back to the ballot paper system, representatives of parties and EC officials present in the meeting said.

Though EVM tampering and VVPAT glitches were not on the agenda, parties raised these issues. Some parties also suggested that the number of constituencies where results of EVM and paper audit trail device are matched be increased to enhance the confidence of voters and parties in the reliability of the
voting mode.

“Nothing final has been decided yet, but one way to allay fears is to increase the number of constituencies where EVM and paper trail machine results are matched,” a senior EC functionary said after the meeting. Responding to repeated questions on EVMs, Rawat said the EC takes a comprehensive view.

“Some of the parties said going back to ballot is really bad as it will bring back booth capturing… we don’t want (that). At the same time, some parties said there are problems with EVMs, there are issues with VVPAT slip count so why not EC takes a call on this,” Rawat said.

Asked about the stand of the EC on EVMs and whether it remains the “same” as it was in the past, the Chief Election Commissioner dubbed it as a “hypothetical question”.

-KRISHN KAUSHIK

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