Centre hikes Election Campaign expenditure limit by 10 percent
Various political parties had requested the Election Commission of India to raise the campaign expenditure limit for candidates citing the pandemic to accommodate the spending on masks, PPE kits, sanitizers, soap and thermal screening during campaigning.
The central government on October 19, 2020 hiked election campaign expenditure by 10 percent for all future elections. The announcement comes just ahead of Bihar Assembly Elections 2020.
The Union Ministry of Law and Justice had notified the amendment to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. The notification has come more than a month after the Election Commission (EC) proposed the hike, given the constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the notification, the amended rules will stay in effect until further notification.
The last increase in the election campaign expenditure limit was made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This time, various parties including the ruling BJP had sought the increase, ahead of Bihar elections.
• The Election Commission in its proposal to the Union Law Ministry had argued that campaigning during the pandemic would be challenging for the candidates. The candidates will have to campaign in smaller gatherings to avoid crowding, in accordance with EC's restrictions on rallies and meetings, as a result, there will be more small rallies, which will lead to more expenditure.
• Various political parties had requested the Election Commission of India to raise the campaign expenditure limit for candidates citing the pandemic to accommodate the spending on masks, PPE kits, sanitizers, soap and thermal screening during campaigning.
• The parties had also requested that more expenditure will be required for a stronger ‘digital campaign’ which is more expensive than regular poll campaigning modes. The ruling BJP had also proposed that such expenditure should be added to the party’s account and not the candidate’s.
Who will benefit from the hike?
All candidates contesting elections in Bihar Assembly Elections 2020 will be the first to benefit from the development as the expenditure limit for the state polls is now Rs 30.8 lakh from Rs 28 lakh.
• The Election Campaign expenditure limit for contesting candidates is different from state to state. With the current hike, all states that had a Rs 20 lakh expenditure limit will see an upward revision to Rs 22 lakh, whereas states that had Rs 28 lakh expenditure limit like Bihar will now see an increase of up to Rs 30.8 lakh.
• Similarly, the expenditure limit for bigger states in parliamentary elections was Rs 70 lakh, which has now been raised to Rs 77 lakh. In smaller states, the cap has been raised from Rs 54 lakh to Rs 59 lakh.
• Around 20 states and two Union territories- Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir fall under the Rs 30.8 lakh/Rs 77 lakh revision category, while eight states and the UT of Puducherry fall in the Rs 22 lakh/Rs 59 lakh cap category.
Will the hike in campaign expenditure be rolled back post-pandemic?
The Ministry’s notification has not clarified whether the increase in campaign expenditure will be rolled back once the COVID pandemic is over.
The campaign expenditure limit as specified under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules and any change requires approval from the Union Law Ministry.
The Election Commission had set up a committee of officers on the subject and it had recommended a 10 percent increase in the expenditure limit as a one time measure in light of the constraints imposed by the pandemic. The same has now been accepted by the government.
Last month, the EC had issued specific guidelines for election campaigning amid a pandemic such as capping the size of the campaign squad to three people for door-to-door visits and allowed just five cars, instead of 10, in roadshow convoys.