Deccan Chronicle

Oommen Chandy agreed on Friday there was a lack of transparency in election expenses submitted by MLAs in the state.

The candid admission came on a day the Chief Minister (CM) launched live webcast of his chamber and office at the secretariat.

Asked if the low amounts quoted by MLAs before the election commission (EC) were true, Chandy said, “What do you think?” When this correspondent replied the statements appeared opaque, CM smiled and said: “I too have the same opinion.”

A smiling industry minister P. K. Kunhalikutty nodded in approval.

If detected, fudging of election expenses to dodge the cap of Rs 16 lakh can result in disqualification of legislators under Representation of the People Act.

All new MLAs in the state but one have shown under-spend. Chandy and opposition leader V. S. Achuthanandan both grossed Rs 11 lakh.

But it’s an open secret that the actual spend is much in excess of the EC ceiling.

As per National Election Watch (NEW), the average spend by the 139 newly elected MLAs in the state was only Rs 9 lakh, about 59% of the limit of Rs 16 lakh. Only four MLAs said they spent more than 80% of the amount, over Rs 13 lakh.

Alleging mass fudging, NEW has urged EC to probe candidates who declared no or very low expenses on vehicles, campaign material, public meetings, workers and the media.

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