Election Commissioner HS Brahma Friday termed Maharashtra the "capital of paid news", and urged the media to put an end to this practice. The comment led to an uproar from the media.
The outraged media present at the briefing asked Brahma to clarify his remark, leading to Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath's intervention to mollify the fourth estate members. "We don't believe that this is a notorious place for paid news," Sampath assured the media.
However, he expressed concern about the prevalence of paid news and said appropriate action is being taken to monitor and deal with it. Nevertheless, Brahma said "a large number of paid news emanates from your state". "It's known as the capital of paid news. Don't get into this thing of paid news," he advised the media, sparking off an uproar.
He also mentioned complaints by some regional and smaller parties in this regard and said they had brought to the poll panel's notice how they were being neglected by the media. "We request you to allow a level playing field to all," he urged.
Election Commissioner Nasim Ahmed Zaidi was also present at the conference. Sampat, meanwhile, lamented that Maharashtra did not have a great record of voter turnout and said the commission was doing its best to ensure higher percentage this year, especially among urban voters.
He said there were 8.03 crore voters in Maharashtra and 92 percent have been issued Electronic Photo Identity Cards so far.
For the first time, voter ID slips will be issued by the district election machinery, and polling stations will have basic amenities like ramps, drinking water and toilets.
Maharashtra will go to the polls in three phases - April 10, 17 and 24.