GUWAHATI, April 19 � The Election Commission (EC) has the power to disqualify any candidate if irregularities are found in his or her account of expenditure for the polls. Meanwhile, the total expenditure for conducting the Assembly polls in Assam has been estimated at Rs 120 crore.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Assam, H Narzary said that the expenditure observers appointed by the EC kept a close watch on the expenditures incurred by the candidates during the poll process, while, the district election officers and the returning officers also kept a tab on the expenditures. The expenditure observers would visit the state again after a month to check the accounts submitted by the candidates and if any irregularities are found by the EC, any candidate can face disqualification.
Narzary said that the close watch on the expenditures of the candidates managed to improve the situation considerably and the meetings of the candidates were also videographed regularly. He said that flying squads were also pressed into service to check vehicles. Moreover, with the Income Tax Department also getting into the act, the candidates had to be extra careful.
Commenting on the expenditure for conducting the polls, Narzary said that it would be around Rs 120 crore. The expenditure increased because of several new steps taken this time. The multimedia campaign to encourage the people to come out to cast their votes, widespread use of modern communication facilities available, movement of the troops, distribution of voters� slips etc., added to the cost of conducting the elections, he added.
Replying to a question on the security of the electronic voting machines till the day of counting, Narzary said that the machines are kept in 48 strong rooms. Each strong room is guarded round the clock by one company of central paramilitary force and CCTV cameras have been installed in the strong rooms. The fitness certificates of the buildings were obtained from the state PWD and nominated agents of the candidates are allowed to keep close watch on the strong rooms. He pointed out that the decision to use paramilitary force personnel to guard the strong rooms instead of the state police force was taken to avoid allegation of partisan role by any political party.
The CEO said that the counting of votes would start at 8 am on May 13 and the results are expected by the same afternoon. The candidates would be notified to be present during the opening of the locks of the strong rooms and the entire counting process would be videographed.