Responding to a longstanding demand of politicians and mindful that the cost of contesting elections has soared, the Election Commission of India is expected to raise the limit on election expenses of candidates between 30 and 50 per cent ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The decision is expected to be finalised at a meeting of the EC early next month. Sources told The Indian Express that the EC has sounded out the Union law ministry and also extensively consulted experts about this move.
The expenditure limit for candidates contesting Lok Sabha polls is determined by the location and size of the constituency. In 2009, candidates in most constituencies were allowed to spend up to Rs 25 lakh on the campaign, while the limit for bigger Assembly seats was Rs 10 lakh.
“We have been told that the increase could be anywhere between 30 and 50 per cent from the current limit. Once the recommendation is received from the EC, we will notify the new limits under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961,” a senior government official said.
“While the government is empowered to suo motu revise the expense limit if it feels there are adequate reasons for doing so, it has routinely been guided in this matter by the EC.” in 2011, the EC revised the limit for parliamentary constituencies to Rs 40 lakh and to Rs 16 lakh for Assembly seats.
Under Section 123 (6) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a candidate spending exceeding the limit is guilty of indulging in corrupt practices. “The purpose of having a ceiling on the maximum amount that each candidate can spend during the campaign is to provide a level playing field to all the contestants. But, the limit is also revised from time to time to keep it in line with ground realities, particularly inflation,” explained former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi.
Over the years, there have been many complaints of under-invoicing and false/under-declaration of expenses by candidates.
Last year, the BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Gopinath Munde, was in the dock for claiming that he had spent around Rs 8 crore during his 2009 election campaign. However, after the EC served him a show-cause notice, Munde said his remarks were only “rhetoric and nothing more”.