Former chief minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav canceling four public meetings on Friday — the last day of canvassing before polling on Sunday, May 12 — is the first case in Uttar Pradesh during this Lok Sabha election of a candidate curtailing his campaign for fear of exceeding the election expenditure limit set by the Election Commission.
The upper limit for a candidate to spend on campaigning in a constituency is Rs 70 lakh. Breaching the limit can invite action by the Election Commission against the candidate.
Akhilesh held a joint rally in Azamgarh on Wednesday with his gathbandhan partners, BSP chief Mayawati and RLD chief Ajit Singh. Akhilesh spoke for approximately 10 minutes at the rally; it was Mayawati who had the microphone for the most part of the event.
Akhilesh was scheduled to spend the entire day in Azamgarh on Friday. The party in a press release late on Thursday evening claimed that the meetings were being canceled because the district administration had revised the party’s expenditure until Thursday evening. However, District Magistrate Shiwakant Dwivedi denied the allegation.
It will be interesting to see how — if at all — the move to cancel the meetings affects Akhilesh’s election prospects in Azamgarh, where he is facing BJP candidate and Bhojpuri actor Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirhaua”.
The BJP candidate, contesting for the first time, has drawn big crowds in Azamgarh, and has been campaigning vigorously for the last few days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also held rallies in Azamgarh on Thursday and asked people to ensure a win for the BJP candidate.
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Limits on campaign expenditure are meant to provide a level-playing field for everyone contesting elections. It ensures that a candidate can’t win only because she is rich. The 255th Report of the Law Commission on electoral reforms argued that unregulated or under-regulated election financing could lead to “lobbying and capture, where a sort of quid pro quo transpires between big donors and political parties/candidates”.
The Election Commission imposes limits on campaign expenditure incurred by a candidate, not by political parties. Expenditure by a Lok Sabha candidate is capped between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state she is fighting from. In Assembly elections, the ceiling is between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 28 lakh. This includes money spent by a political party or a supporter towards the candidate’s campaign. However, expenses incurred either by a party or the leader of a party for propagating the party’s programme are not covered.
Candidates must mandatorily file a true account of election expenses with the EC. An incorrect account, or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years under Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
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