Battle for states: No lavish food, free liquor this time to supporters
Just two days before the first phase of polling in Chhattishgarh, an outsider may not have any clue about the impending Assembly election as strict adherence to the Election Commission (EC) rulebooks has robbed off the colour and pomp commonly found in Indian elections.
There are no posters and graffiti on the wall. There is no sloganeering, use of loudspeakers and mikes and road side meeting blocking the traffic. The election is almost invisible.
A team of expenditure observers from the EC is keeping a close watch on the expenditure ceiling, permitted by the EC, which comes to around Rs 15 lakh per candidate.
In one dinner meeting hosted by the BJP youth wing, officials videographed the menu and made cost calculation as per the market rate so that the entire amount can be taken into account while calculating the ceilings for the BJP candidate from that constituency. The rule book has impacted the influence of money and booze to a large extent.
“Even earlier, the EC had the provision of expenditure observers, but their numbers were increased this time so that more attention can be paid on each constituency,” a top official in Chhattishgarh administration told Deccan Herald.
For the 18 constituencies going to the polls on Monday, there are eight expenditure observers from the EC. In addition, there are general observers, awareness observers and police observers. For the remaining 72 constituencies, there will be 22 more expenditure observers.
Special attention is being paid to 18 constituencies from where 11 ministers from the Raman Singh Cabinet and some of the rich and influential candidates are battling for a berth in the Assembly.
They include two seats in Raipur city, Bilaspur, Kota, Marwahi, Kashdol, Dhamtari, Bhilai and Durg.
Former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s wife Renu is contesting from Kota while his son Amit is the Congress candidate in Marwahi. Former speaker Prem Prakash Pandey is contesting from Bhilai while Congress treasurer Motilal Vora’s son Arun Vora is the party’s choice from Durg.
Because of the watchful eyes of the EC, there is hardly any poster of Congress top leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even in front of venues where they addressed rallies and party workers.
Rahul Gandhi on Friday addressed a rally in Rajnandgaon, where the turn out, in the words of Congress leader B K Hariprasad, was “impressive”. But in the absence of visible signs like posters, slogans and banners, it was difficult to locate the place even a few hundred metres ahead of the venue.
On Saturday, Singh addressed party workers at an indoor stadium in Raipur, prompting BJP leader Sushma Swaraj to take a swipe at the prime minister for not being able to address a public rally. There is not a single photo of one of India's longest serving prime ministers anywhere near the venue.
BJP leaders put up some of their advertisement at commercial roadside display boards. But Congress remains almost absent from the public eye in the poll-bound state.