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RR Nagar bye-polls: BJP’s Munirathna spent more than EC cap, alleges Congress

Munirathna had distributed 34,000 set top boxes in the constituency a few weeks ago, and the opposition Congress has said that this was a violation of election rules.

BJP’s candidate for the Raja Rajeshwari (RR) Nagar bye-elections, Munirathna Naidu, has landed in a controversy after distributing television set top boxes to voters in the constituency. Munirathna had distributed 34,000 set top boxes a few weeks ago and the opposition Congress has accused Munirathna of spending more money on the campaign than the cap set by the Election Commission.

The Election Commission had set a cap of Rs 30.8 lakh for campaigning expenses. The Congress had on October 26, filed a complaint with the Election Commission that Munirathna had distributed 34,000 set top boxes for free and was also airing ads about his candidature on televisions of those voters using the “Munirathna” set top boxes.

The Congress, in its complaint, had said that even if each set top box cost Rs 1,000, by adding the expenses of the advertisements, the amount spent would exceed Rs 5 crore. However, Munirathna Naidu refuted the Congress’ claim and said that the set top boxes were ‘sold’ to the people after obtaining permission from the Union government. He said that they were distributed before the election campaign began officially.

“Reliance is doing it, Tata Sky is doing it, Jio is doing it, why should I not? We have done this legally and with the permission of the Union government,” Munirathna said in his response.

Watch: Munirathna defends his move to distribute set top boxes to voters

However, officials with the Election Commission said that they are in the process of calculating the money spent on advertising for the bye-polls by Munirathna. According to Bengaluru district election officer Manjunath Prasad, even if the set top boxes were sold, the ads being played through them would still be counted as election expenses. 

“The advertisements that were run during the 20-day campaign period will be accounted as election expenses. Generally, the charge for each ad would be Rs 1 or Rs 5 per day. If the amount for each ad is counted as Rs 1 per day, the expense would come up to Rs 6.8 lakh. But if the money spent is Rs 5 per ad, then the total amount would exceed Rs 34 lakh, which is more than the price cap. We are looking into this. We also have to take into account other expenses incurred for the campaign,” Manjunath Prasad said.

The Congress party however, said that it would wait for the elections to get over before filing a fresh complaint as the party is also looking into the alleged discrepancies. “We are waiting for him to file his election expenses before we file our complaint. We will submit proof to the Election Commission and call for Munirathna’s disqualification,” a Congress leader said. 

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