Parties take advantage of chink in poll expenditure norms

Bhubaneswar: Even though all the three major political parties are blaming each other for undertaking extravagant campaigning, one thing is clear that loopholes in the guidelines set by the State Election Commission (SEC) on poll expenditures are being blatantly exploited.

Though the poll expenditure limits are applicable to the candidates, it is not applicable to star campaigners of various parties. Through this loophole, parties in the State are splurging crores to woo voters leaving the watchdog SEC as a mute spectator.

From February 4, the Odisha BJP’s star campaigners began their campaigning by hopping on to helicopters to hop panchayats. Union minister Jual Oram, BJP legislature party leader KV Singhdeo, actress Pinki Pradhan and actor Sritam Das have taken whirlwind visits to 12 places in 2 days.

On February 7, Union Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan joined the campaigning spree by visiting various places on helicopter. From tomorrow onwards, another star campaigner of the party, Chhattisgarh CM, Raman Singh will begin his campaigning and will be flying over the Western Odisha.

Similar logistic arrangements have been made for Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das who will also campaign in the State.

As per estimates, the party is spending around Rs 40 lakh every day for such arrangements for their star campaigners and is expected to do so till campaigning ends.

“The party should ask itself about whose money it is using extravagantly for campaigning,” said BJD spokesperson, Sashibhushan Behera.

On the other hand, the Odisha Congress has alleged that both the BJD and BJP are spending a lot of money in campaigning.

Also Read: Panchayat elections: Poll code goes for a toss in Odisha

The party alleged that while Odisha CM flew to every district on government money before the model code of conduct came into force, now the star campaigners are undertaking expensive campaigning.

“The way CM Naveen toured across Odisha on government money, similarly now union ministers and BJP leaders are doing the same,” said senior Congress leader, Sarat Rout.

In reply to such allegations, senior BJP leader, Manmohan Samal said “Our party will never cross the line. In a bid to escape, others are raising fingers at our party.”

There are no limits for star campaigners. However, there are restrictions on how many vehicles can be used by candidates and district party presidents. The collectors have been informed about the fact that the expenditures of the star campaigners will be borne by the party accounts,” said SEC secretary, Rabindranath Sahoo.

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