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Stop registering voters for beneficiary schemes under guise of surveys: EC tells political parties

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New Delhi, May 2: The Election Commission Thursday asked political parties to immediately stop and “desist” from any activity that involves registering people for post-election beneficiary-oriented schemes through advertisements, surveys or mobile applications.
The election watchdog said it has taken a “serious view” of political parties and candidates seeking details of voters under the guise of various surveys for their proposed beneficiary schemes and cautioned that it amounts to a corrupt practice under the electoral law.
The poll panel pointed out that some political parties and candidates have been engaging in activities that “blur the lines between legitimate surveys and partisan efforts” to register individuals for post-election beneficiary-oriented schemes.
In an advisory to all national and state-level political parties, the commission asked them to immediately “cease and desist” from any activity that involves registering people for such post-election schemes through advertisements, surveys or mobile applications.
At the same time, the poll panel acknowledged that “generic and general electoral promises” are in the realm of permissibility.
It said the act of inviting or calling upon individual electors to register for post-election benefits may create an impression of the requirement of a one-to-one transactional relationship between the elector and the proposed benefit, and has the potential to generate a quid pro quo arrangement for voting in a particular way, thereby leading to inducement.
The EC also noted that such activities obscure the distinction between authentic surveys and biased attempts to enrol people in programmes for political gain — all while masquerading as legitimate survey activities or efforts to inform about government programmes or party agendas related to potential individual benefits.
The election watchdog has directed all district election officers to take appropriate action against any such advertisement within the statutory provisions, including section 127A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (which prohibits printing or publishing of any election pamphlet or poster which does not bear the names and addresses of the printer and publisher).
The other provisions the EC has asked its officials to use to clamp down on such practices are section 123 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (corrupt practices), and section 171 (B) of IPC (accepting gratification).
The EC also cited examples of activities which “obscure the distinction between authentic surveys and biased attempts to enrol people in programmes for political gain”.
These include newspaper advertisements calling upon individual voters to register themselves for benefits by giving missed calls or calling a phone number. The poll body also cited the distribution of guarantee cards in the form of pamphlets giving details of prospective individual benefits along with an attached form asking for details of voters such as name, age, address, mobile number, booth number and constituency name. (PTI)

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