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Election panel tightens oversight on parties’ spending on communication campaigns

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In Short:

The Election Commission of India is closely monitoring SMS and voice call campaigns by political parties to ensure they do not breach election expenditure limits. Telcos are also involved in tracing spending on campaigns through telemarketers and aggregators. Strict verification processes are in place for those disseminating election-related information. Any candidate exceeding the expenditure limit set by ECI could face disqualification for up to three years.

ECI Tightens Scrutiny on Political SMS and Voice Call Campaigns

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has increased its monitoring of SMS and voice call campaigns by political parties to ensure compliance with election expenditure limits. The ECI is collaborating with telecom companies to track the spending on these campaigns through various participants in the value chain.

Enhanced Monitoring

Phone companies may require assistance to access the necessary information for this monitoring. The blockchain-based system used by telecom companies allows for tracking the audit trail of commercial messaging and calls. However, official directives from the ECI are needed to obtain sensitive financial details from other participants.

Telecom companies are conducting thorough know-your-customer (KYC) verification for individuals involved in disseminating election-related information or advertisements.

Regulatory Compliance

As per ECI guidelines, bulk SMS or voice messages need clearance from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC). Telecom regulations also require pre-checking of all enterprise communication using blockchain technology.

For election-related communication senders, authorisation from the associated political party’s IT cell is necessary. KYC checks include office address, Aadhaar and PAN information, and party incorporation documents.

Financial Oversight

The ECI audits election expenditure statements to ensure compliance with spending limits. Lok Sabha candidates have a limit of Rs 70 lakh, while assembly contenders have a cap of Rs 40 lakh. Any excess spending can result in the disqualification of candidates for up to three years.

SMS and voice calls remain popular for their convenience and cost-effectiveness, particularly for state governments and candidates at the constituency level.

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