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Strict vigil to check ‘money influence’ on ADC polls

No reports of model code violation so far: Officials

GUWAHATI: Poll authorities in Meghalaya are ensuring strict enforcement of the model code of conduct for the elections to the two district councils even as the “spectre of money power” looms across constituencies in the state.
The elections to the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council will be held on February 27 while the results will be declared on March 2.
With less than a week for the polls now, returning officers and nodal officers are keeping close vigil on all aspects, including use of money power to woo voters.
“From our side, we have taken adequate steps to enforce the model code of conduct. Our officers and police are on the job. So far, we haven’t received any complaint as such,” East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner, Matsiewdor War Nongbri, who is also the returning officer for the polls, told The Shillong Times on Thursday.
The district council polls, unlike the assembly or parliamentary elections, are not mandated by the Election Commission of India, thereby leaving scope for many loopholes.
“It is not easy to plug the loopholes in the district council polls as they are not mandated by the ECI,” veteran Congress leader, John F. Kharshiing said, while underlying the need for reforms in the electoral process for free and fair polls.
“Money power” still has a strong influence on the district council polls. I had recently visited some constituencies and could gauge the underlying current of money power, which is an aspect to be concerned about,” Kharshiing said.
A study by the Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO working in the sphere of electoral and political reforms, had found that the voting process was influenced to a great extent by money power and that that electoral success was directly linked to assets of candidates.
“In Meghalaya, the constituencies are relatively small (more so in Jaintia Hills) and candidates win or lose by small margins. So if one keeps wooing votes through money, and there are many strategies people adopt, it affects the electoral process,” he said.
Sources say the influence of money power has always been there, particularly in district council polls. “At times, people themselves approach candidates for aid,” said a resident of Patharkhmah in Jirang constituency, requesting anonymity.
Keeping tabs on everyone becomes difficult though and with no additional forces from outside the state to assist, unlike in the assembly of General Elections, the security personnel have their task cut out.
Inspector general of police (law and order), H. Nongpluh, however, said things have been smooth as of now. “There has been no problem regarding shortage of manpower. We have mobilised our forces and there has been no issue reported from our officers,” Nongpluh, who is the nodal officer for the polls, said.
Things are smooth in Ri Bhoi as well. “We are keeping close watch in regard to adherence of the model code of conduct,” Ri Bhoi deputy commissioner, Rosetta Mary Kurbah said.
The district council affairs department had earlier this month informed the media about returning officers being asked to strictly enforce the model code of conduct and take immediate action against violators.
Carrying of cash in excess of Rs 50,000 by candidates or their supporters is prohibited. Fresh release of funds under MLA or MP schemes, issue of work order by district councils and announcement of new schemes have been kept on hold till the elections are over.

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