Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BJP and NCP Candidates in NE Mumbai Reprimanded for illegal concealment of expenses

BJP and NCP Candidates, Mr Somaiya and Mr Patil in NE Mumbai
Reprimamded for illegal concealment of expenses worth 28lakhs
Violation of law and code of conduct can have serious repercussions

The just concluded Lok Sabha Elections were characterized by the excessive use of money power by the two main parties – BJP and the Congress and their alliance partners.
The election commission had increased the candidate’s spending limit to Rs.70 lakhs and allowed the parties to spend any amount without restriction as long as these expenses were for the benefit of the party in general and not for the benefit of any particular candidate. This itself has brought in unjustifiable disparity with no level playing field amongst the candidates and the parties. Inspite of the increased limits, candidates have been spending far more than the allowed limit and disguising the expenses as party expenses making a mockery of the spending limit fixed by the Election commission. One would remember Mr Gopinath Munde’s public confession about his having spent not less than Rs 8 crores just for MLA constituency.
One such example of excessive spending by the two main parties was the distribution of plastic laminated Voter ID cards to all the voters of the Mumbai North East and other constituencies. The laminated cards were in violation of the Model Code of Conduct which specified that the voter slips should be on plain white paper and should not contain the name of any party or candidate or symbol. The cards distributed by these parties had the name of the parties, symbols, pictures of leaders and candidates and slogans on them.
Medha Patkar, candidate of AAP from Mumbai North East, through her election agent, Mr Anil Hebbar had filed a complaint to the Returning Officer (RO) that the distribution of these Voter ID cards are illegal and the expenses incurred on them should be included in the election expenditure of the candidates concerned as it was primarily meant for bettering their election prospects. After they were issued notices by the RO both the parties and the candidates, Mr Kirit Somaiya (BJP) and Mr Sanjay Dina Patil (NCP) justified the distribution of cards and gave number of fictitious reasons and unjustifiably low expenses on the same. While Mr Somaiya claimed having printed only 4,76,401 cards @ 80 paise,  expenses totaling Rs 4,00,429.20/- ; Mr Patil claimed 2,00,000 cards @ 50 paise amounting to Rs 1,05,000/- only 
The RO after a thorough investigation has passed his order dated 23/04/2014 which was not forwarded to us until yesterday. The order has concluded the above mentioned claims to be false and rejected those. The RO has instructed the BJP candidate Mr.Kirit Somaiya to add Rs.20,25,979/-(Twenty lakhs twenty five thousand nine hundred and seventy nine) and the NCP candidate Mr,Sanjay Dina Patil to add Rs.8,10,000/-(Eight lakhs ten thousand) to the candidate’s election expenses account. This is based on the candidate’s own admission of the number of copies printed, which in BJP’s case was 4 lakhs and NCP’s case was 2 lakhs.  Even though our investigation shows that the number of copies printed was far more as there are about 17 lakh voters in the constituency, benefit of doubt was given to the candidates by the RO  as proving the actual figure printed in the short time available was a difficult job. However we as AAP will surely bring out the truth in the course of time. We also assert that printing and distribution of such cards itself is violation of the law committed by both the parties.
The answers given by both the candidates to the query of the RO are really revealing and show the extent to which the so called national parties go to break the Model Code of Conduct and hide the actual expenditure incurred, by concealing facts which amounts to lying.
·        We have also filed a complaint on the huge money spent by the BJP on hoardings within the North East Mumbai constituency and the suppression of actual expenditure incurred there in. Mr Somaiya himself has 8 hoardings for his own candidature (list enclosed) which would amount to expenses worth tens of lakhs of rupees. The RO is yet to take a decision on this. Any expenditure above the permitted limit can lead to disqualification of the candidate.
While section 126 of Representation of Peoples Act prevents candidates from carrying on any campaigning 48 hours before the close of poll, it is ironic that the major parties spend Crores of Rupees on front page advertisements even on the day of poll. This totally negates the spirit of providing a level playing field for all candidates and allows major parties with unknown sources of income to manufacture their images. We regret that no action has been taken by any authority or the court on this till date and hence will pursue the matter with the election commission of India in due course.
·        On the other hand it is regrettable and shocking that one of our opponents Mr Patil NCP has complained with the RO about some paid news in The Urdu Times which was actually a news circulated by the federation of minorities NGOs, Maharashtra. They have refuted the same through a statement issued today.
We as AAP feel extremely anguished that the election commission of India is taken for a ride by the mainstream parties who take pride in falsely claiming themselves to be capable of good governance. Can the violators of law ever provide good governance? Can the election and the results based on such campaigns of falsehood be considered as free and fair?
We expect ECI to take a storng postion in the above matter and give the final verdict at the earliest.

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