The Election Commission (EC) removed BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from the party’s list of star campaigners Wednesday. The move comes after Thakur encouraged the crowd at a rally this week to chant “desh ke gaddaron ko goli maaro (gun down traitors)” and Singh, in an interview, claimed that Shaheen Bagh protestors could “enter homes and rape sisters and daughters”.
The Commission has already issued show-cause notices to both leaders for their provocative remarks. But how does removal from BJP star campaigners’ list affect Thakur and Singh? Does it mean they can’t campaign anymore?
Who is a star campaigner?
A recognised political party can have 40 star campaigners and an unrecognised (but registered) political party can have 20. The list of star campaigners has to be communicated to the Chief Electoral Officer and Election Commission within a week from the date of notification of an election.
The expenditure incurred on campaigning by such campaigners is exempt from being added to the election expenditure of a candidate. However, this only applies when a star campaigner limits herself to a general campaign for the political party she represents.
What if a star campaigner campaigns specifically for one candidate?
If a candidate or her election agent shares the stage with a star campaigner at a rally, then the entire expenditure on that rally, other than the travel expenses of the star campaigner, is added to the candidate’s expenses.
Even if the candidate is not present at the star campaigner’s rally, but there are posters with her photographs or her name on display, the entire expenditure will be added to the candidate’s account.
This applies even if the star campaigner mentions the candidate’s name during the event. When more than one candidate shares the stage, or there are posters with their photographs, then the expenses of such rally/meeting are equally divided between all such candidates.
Does removal from the star campaigner’s list bar Thakur and Singh from campaigning?
No, that decision will only be taken by the EC once the two leaders reply to the showcause notices served to them. However, the removal from the star campaigner’s list does make campaigning difficult for them.
This is because whichever constituency they now hold their election meeting or rally at, irrespective of whether they limit themselves to general party propaganda or not, the entire expenditure of the event will be added to the account of the BJP candidate contesting from that seat. Since candidates cannot afford to breach their expenditure limit (Rs 28 lakh in case of Delhi elections), they would not want Thakur and Singh to campaign in their constituency.
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