Times of India

The demand for capping candidates’ expenditure and other electoral reforms is growing stronger amid reports about moneybags bribing voters in elections to the legislative council from local bodies.

Unlike polls to elect members for the legislative assembly and Lok Sabha, there is no limit to the expenditure of a candidate contesting MLC polls where elected members to local rural and urban bodies are the voters. Candidates are reportedly splurging on campaigns amid tough competition for the December 10 polls.

There are reports of candidates offering between Rs 35,000 and Rs 1 lakh per voter and a range of gifts. “A cap is not fixed on expenditure of candidates in MLC polls since it’s assumed that candidates are not required to spend money as voters are elected members. It is unfortunate that elections to the upper house has assumed the proportions of general elections in terms of corruption and electoral reforms are urgently needed,” said Madabushi Sridhar Acharyalu, professor of law and former information commissioner of India.

He said while it takes fresh legislation by the Parliament to fix the ceiling on election expenditure in MLC polls, the Election Commission of India should modify its model code of conduct mandating candidates to file details of expenditure at the end of elections. Officials from the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, said they have launched an extensive enforcement drive to curb electoral malpractices. Flying squads have seized 2,534 litres of liquor worth Rs 9.5 lakh so far and FIRs have been registered in 238 cases.

Interestingly, there are no reports on seizure of cash while functionaries of political parties have admitted they are forced to distribute money. Many civil society organisations and stakeholders are demanding the Centre amend the Representation of People Act (RPA) to bring in electoral reforms.

“It is worrisome that elected representatives are taking bribes to vote for their representatives. The cap on election expenditure may not put an end to corruption, but it may act as a deterrent at least,” said Trilochan Sastry, chairman, Association for Democratic Reforms.

BS Shvanna, chairman, Ram Manohar Lohia Thinkers Forum, said his organisation will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking amendments to the RPA. “We’re seeking reservation in MLC polls for women and the downtrodden,” he said

“The gram panchayat members are officially not affiliated to parties since polls are not fought on party lines. This has given way to corruption in MLC polls. Polls for the GP should be made political as it was in the previous avatar of mandal panchayats,’ said BL Shankar, former chairman of the legislative council.

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