Monday, August 4, 2008

Poll spending crosses limit by wide margin


Violating the rules for poster size, a Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) councillor aspirant, top, hangs posters printed on plastic paper. An RCC mayor candidate uses large replicas of his electoral symbol while another goes even further by using coloured ones. Photo: STAR
Anwar Ali, Rajshahi
Campaign expenditure of most mayoral and councillor candidates, especially of politically nominated ones, doubled the limits by the time electioneering in Rajshahi metropolis ended at zero hour Sunday.The mayor hopefuls in Rajshahi City Corporation were set to spend Tk 5 lakh and councillor aspirants Tk 1 lakh during campaigns.But reports say mayor candidates spent even Tk 12 lakh to Tk 20 lakh each, while several councillor aspirants spent at least Tk 5 lakh.Speaking anonymously, a number of candidates' polling agents admitted the fact and said real expenditure would be even higher due to rampant distribution of money among the poor voters.Many voters also believe though the spending was much "less" than that of previous elections, the candidates exceeded the limits fixed by electoral laws.Under the new law, all candidates will have to submit returns of their election expenditure in prescribed forms 30 days into election results.Although the electoral rules made it mandatory to spend from dedicated bank accounts, some of the candidates avoided it.Moreover, many others showed obscure sources of their probable expenditure in their affidavits, while some showed grants from friends and relatives and bank loans.The mayor hopefuls show a common expenditure of around Tk 4.2 lakh spent for running campaign through at least 30 election camps at 30 wards. They spent as low as Tk 2,000 on each camp every day.Besides, they spent Tk 90,000 for canvassing through loudspeakers on three-wheelers in 20 days of campaign.Front-page advertisement at a rate of Tk 3,000 per day was given to three local dailies every day that cost around Tk 1.8 lakh in 20 days. The candidates however claim the dailies offered special discounts on the occasion of polls.Moreover, all the candidates are expected to spend minimum Tk 1.59 lakh for employing polling agents at all 774 booths of 129 poling centres today. This expenditure will increase if anyone employs more than one polling agent, who gets at least Tk 200.The agents of BNP-backed candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul said they spent over Tk 12 lakh since July 14.They printed at least 60,000 posters at a cost of Tk 1.39 lakh, while 4 lakh handbills were printed at Tk 1.16 lakh. Bulbul arranged two processions on July 17 and 31 spending Tk 2 lakh. Over 1,000 people, including women and boys, joined the processions. Sources say some 500 workers were paid Tk 200 each for organising the participants.Bulbul built 50 replicas of his election symbol tiger spending Tk 10,000 and four large replicas at Tk 2,000.Bulbul's annual income is Tk 1.68 lakh and in his affidavit he shows "other" source for managing Tk 2.4 lakh and bank loan for Tk 3 lakh.Some one lakh posters were printed for Awami League-nominated candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton at Tk 2.31 lakh, two lakh leaflets at Tk 58,500. He spent Tk 2 lakh for two processions on July 15 and August 1 and built some 500 replicas of his symbol 'lock' spending Tk 15,000.His agents said they spent no less than Tk 11.02 lakh. In his affidavit Liton said he would spend Tk 50,000 from his own income and take grants of Tk 2.75 lakh from relatives and Tk 2.5 lakh from "other" source.Another contestant AL city unit President Masudul Haque Dulu spent Tk 1 lakh more than Liton as he hanged some 200 multi-coloured banners in all 30 wards at Tk 400 each.Acting Rajshahi Mayor Rejaunnabi Dudu spent around Tk 10 lakh, his agents say. He brought out only one big procession of several thousand people at Saturday afternoon.He distributed Tk 100 each among some 200 women participants. Later that night, some 50 other women surrounded his house. The Rapid Action Battalion arrived on the scene and took the situation under control, witnesses say."Dudu's men took me to his procession promising me Tk 100 but did not keep their words," said Cynthia, a voter of Pathanpara. Her neighbour Bithi claimed the same. Dudu, a contractor by profession, printed one lakh posters, 2 lakh leaflets and 150 banners.He claims his annual income is Tk 3.46 lakh against annual expenditure of Tk 1.95 lakh. Still he shows Tk 3 lakh from his income as probable source of election expenditure.Progressive Development Party candidate Raihanur Rahman has also allegedly exceeded the limit. Although his annual income is Tk 1.6 lakh, he claimed Tk 4 lakh would come from his income and prize bond money, while he would get grants of Tk 1.75 lakh from his wife.Jatiya Party's Durul Huda and BNP's Enamul Haque too have allegedly crossed expenditure limit.Talking to The Daily Star, all the candidates have denied crossing the expenditure limits. They however said the fixed amounts are too little to run for office these days. They had to spend more than expected for posters and handbills following increased rates of printing items, they explain.The price of paper rose by Tk 300 per ream, ink by Tk 30 and printing plates by Tk 15, leading to extra spending.Sources say paper price was Tk 1,200 per ream even in June which now stands at Tk 1,500.To save posters from rain, many candidates had to cover those with polythene, which increased the expenditure by at least Tk 700 for each 1,000 posters, printers say. Moreover, some candidates printed posters on glossy plastic paper each at Tk 50 to Tk 70.

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