Election commission keeps tab on virtual rally expenditure

With the election campaign going virtual, the EC will be keeping a close watch on political parties, from the money spent by them to the content circulated on the virtual campaign mode, ET has learnt.

The poll panel is readying a twin approach – seeking accounts for virtual rally expenditure and bringing in social media platforms to keep a watch on content. The poll panel held a meeting with all social media platforms on Thursday to remind them of the necessity to ensure compliance with the voluntary code of ethics amid heavy online campaigning. The platforms are learnt to have assured the EC that all rulebooks and codes of conduct will be adhered to in the poll-bound states.

The ECI will soon issue guidelines to ensure that money spent towards virtual campaign is fully accounted for in the expenditure statements filed by candidates and political parties. Candidates will have to fill in details such as the number of virtual election meetings held, amount spent and share content circulated in these meetings. The expenditure statement format will be modified to make space for the ‘virtual’ element.

At a meeting with election observers on Friday, the EC underlined the two concerns on expenditure and content on virtual mode. CEC Sushil Chandra reminded expenditure observers to be innovative in countering ‘newer methods of inducement’. Election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey mentioned the need to curtail misinformation and hate campaigns on social media platforms.

Election commissioner Rajiv Kumar cautioned that even stray instances of human errors and non-compliance of Covid protocols can ‘derail the smooth conduct of elections’.

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