The Times of India

RANCHI: The Election Commission of India will soon make it mandatory for contestants to reveal sources of finance for offering freebies to voters. Called accountability clause, it aims to rein in political parties, who go on a distribution spree to woo voters ahead of polls.

Parties will be allowed to distribute cycles, laptops or any other article to the electorate only if they mention the source of revenue from where the expenses will be met. H S Brahma, election commissioner of India, made this announcement here on Saturday while taking questions during an open session organized on the occasion of the 10th annual seminar on "political and electoral reforms' by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW).

Brahma admitted that such promises, to a certain extent, qualify in the category of wooing voters but under the provisions of Constitution, political parties have every right to come up with their promises in the manifesto. "We cannot regulate the manifesto but have written to all political parties couple of months ago that they have to clearly mention the source of revenue and give an approximate value of the money required to meet such expenses," he said.

Explaining further, he said once the accountability clause is made mandatory, the voter will have an option to decide whether such expenditure from public exchequer is attractive enough for him or not.

Welcoming suggestions from delegates from all over the country, the commission also announced to deploy impartial and strict officers as observers during the election and monitor their activities as well. "We would like every citizen to work as observers and appraise the commission of any discrepancies and action will be taken against the erring officers at the earliest," he said.

Responding to a question from a Jammu and Kashmir doctor, Brahma said false propaganda about threat of terror attacks in northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir is common just to keep the observers under 'tight security' and prevent them from doing their jobs. "I have experienced this and the matter will be dealt with strategically this time," he said.

The commission has also decided to start an awareness campaign about the provision of 'non of the above' (NOTA) button introduced in the EVM machines. Taking note of a complain of Rauna Kumar of Madhya Pradesh Brahma said that some political parties have accused commission of working against their interest by introducing NOTA. "We know that's a powerful tool to compel the parties to field good candidates and the commission would ensure awareness is created among the voters," he said.

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