EC recovers 24 lakh from Cong leaders, party says poll expenses

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Shillong, Feb 24 (UNI) The Congress today said the amount of Rs 23.8 lakh recovered from two AICC members by the Election Commission was meant for the election campaign in Meghalaya and other poll related expenditure.

Acting on complaints that the Congress was distributing money, a visiting EC observer team earlier today went to the city's plush hotel and found Rs 23.8 lakh with AICC secretaries -- Capt(Retd) Prabveen Davar and accountant Vijay Malhotra.

The EC has started preliminary investigations.

District Electoral Officer of East Khasi Hills district B Dhar said AICC General Secretary, in-charge Meghalaya, Margaret Alva, had given an accounts statement for Rs 3.35 crore which was brought here from New Delhi. An amount of Rs 3 crore had already been distributed to 60 Congress candidates and the rest was earmarked towards expenses for Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scheduled visit to the state on February 27, Mr Dhar told UNI here, giving the Congress' account.

According to the DEO, the Congress was left with about Rs 24 lakh after catering for the visits and allotting candidates' campaign fund in the state.

Ms Alva, however, said the money (Rs.23.80 lakh) was meant for the election campaign of four candidates -- Rs 5 lakh each -- while the rest of the amount (Rs 3.80 lakh), was for expenses during the Prime Minister's scheduled visit to Meghalaya.

When asked why the money had been got at the fag end of electioneering, the AICC leader said, ''we (Cong) have not done anything wrong.'' She said that as per the guidelines of the Election Commission, each candidate could use Rs 5 lakh as election expenditure.

''We have already sent a letter to the EC explaining the money, Ms Alva informed.

Chief Election Officer P Naik said the complaints would be investigated.

UNI RRK PC RR KN1919

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