Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat
Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat

Money power, fake and paid news, main worries for EC: CEC Rawat

ANI | Updated: May 02, 2018 22:26 IST

New Delhi [India] May 02 (ANI): Use of money power, and fake and paid news are the two main worries for the Election Commission, said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O.P. Rawat on Wednesday.

In an exclusive interview to ANI, Rawat said, "The EC is worried about two things: one is an abuse of money in different manifestations, like cash, freebies, liquor etcetera. Second is fake and paid news, data harvesting, targeted communication to affect voting behaviour."

He, however, added that the EC was doing its bit to innovate to ensure that those ills didn't affect the integrity of the elections.

Talking about the commission's efforts to curb the use of money power in the elections, the CEC said, "In 2013 Karnataka elections, total seizure of cash, freebies and liquor was about Rs. 14 crore. Today, when we are 10 days away from polls, we have already seized Rs 128 Cr worth of cash, gold, silver, freebies, liquor etcetera."

Replying to a question, Rawat said that the use of money in the elections couldn't be resolved by requesting or giving instructions to the political parties.

"One will have to clamp the enforcement, which the commission is doing. Number of flying squads, the number of surveillance teams have been increased and 24-hour surveillance is being done, and that is delivering these results," Rawat said.

He also said that in the past also the EC had cancelled polls in three constituencies of Tamil Nadu after the rampant use of money and freebies had come into the commission's notice

"The Commission used plenary powers under Article 324 and countermanded those polls in three Tamil Nadu constituencies to give a message to the political parties and candidates that we will not overlook these kinds of things," Rawat said.

On Hate Speech:

The Chief Election Commissionaire observed that the incidents of hate speeches had gone down considerably but whenever such complaint came, the EC acted strongly.

"We admire the political parties that these things have come down considerably. However, whenever any such complaint comes to the commission, it ensures that the evidence is gathered. In case, a prima facie case is made out then the strict action is taken against the responsible people so that the message goes that hate speeches and provocative gestures will not be tolerated," Rawat said.

He added that "even the Supreme Court has given a ruling last year that seeking votes in the name of caste or religion is a serious thing and should be penalised. The Commission has taken a cue from it and acting strongly in all such matters."

On Simultaneous Polls:

The CEC said that simultaneous election was not a new concept in India. Though he didn't clearly say that simultaneous polls should be held but observed that continuous election affected many things.

"Our country had simultaneous polls between 1952-1967, so it is not a new concept. After 1967, different houses got out of sync and polls started taking place on different dates and years," Rawat said.

He added that at present, it appeared that one or other election was going on.

Giving an example of his tenure as the CEC, Rawat said, "After I took over as CEC, continuous polls are taking place. First, elections in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya took place. Then immediately after by-elections, council elections, Rajya Sabha elections took place. Now, Karnataka is going for polls. Once it is over then Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram will go for polls. Continuous elections affect many things."

Of late, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been underscoring the need of holding simultaneous elections in the country and appealing to all the political parties to reach a consensus on this.

On EVMs:

Rawat was of the opinion that the complaints regarding the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were not going to come up during the Karnataka Assembly elections.

"When the Karnataka election process was initiated then there were complaints about the EVMs from one or two political parties. Then the EC ensured that EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are put in public places and people were invited to vote and count the votes. The campaign continued for 4-5 days all over the state. After this, not a single party complained against the EVMs.

On Autonomy of EC:

Talking on the issue of autonomy of the Election Commission, Rawat said, "We suggested certain reforms like independent secretariat, similar status to other election commissioners as chief election commissioner, etcetera. These suggestions strengthen the autonomy of the election commission."

He added that the EC didn't get any official communication from the government. (ANI)