EC general observer spent Rs 1.4 lakh on ‘official’ trip

The Election Commission's (EC) General Observer for three constituencies of Himachal Pradesh, senior IAS officer Sanjay Pratap Singh, has landed himself and the election machinery in a bit of a spot. Singh allegedly took a trip — against EC guidelines — to Kalpa (Kinnaur), Kaza, Keylong (Lahaul-Spiti) and Manali (Kullu) between October 23 to 29 and racked up a hefty bill of Rs 1,43,198.00 as expenses on his boarding and lodging, beside travel outside the assigned assembly constituencies.

Singh, the EC general observer of Shimla, Kasumpti and Shimla (Rural) constituencies, was accompanied by two ASIs, PSO, PA, Liaison officer and three drivers with two official Innova vehicles and a gypsy.

The state's Chief Election Officer (CEO) Narinder Chauhan, on Saturday, told The Indian Express: "The Deputy Commissioner (Shimla) Subashish Panda, who is the district RO (Shimla), has reported to me in writing about Singh having travelled to Kalpa in Kinnaur district, Kaza and Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district as well as Manali in Kullu district between October 23 to 29. The entire records and bills are available to substantiate it."

Chauhan said he has sent the RO's report to the EC with his inputs and comments. The EC's guidelines doesn't permit such a facility to EC observers during the elections. "It's a serious matter. Let ECI take a view on it," he added.

As per EC's guidelines DCs were informed that Observers should be provided only suitable boarding, lodging, security, transport arrangements and no other facilities or gifts.

When contacted in Delhi on Saturday, Sanjay Partap Singh denied having visited Keylong or Kalpa. "It's not true that I had travelled to Lahual-Spiti or elsewhere, other than Shimla's three constituencies," he added and expressed ignorance about any report sent by the DC to the state CEO. "I have no idea about it. In fact, the incumbent DC had joined only during the later days of polls," Singh added.

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