The Centre Monday increased the campaign expenditure limit by 10% for all future elections.
The notification came more than a month after the Election Commission (EC) proposed the hike, given the constraints posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The last hike in the expenditure ceiling was before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Candidates contesting elections in Bihar will be the first to benefit from the development as the expenditure ceiling for the state polls is now Rs 30.8 lakh, from Rs 28 lakh.
As reported by The Indian Express on September 10, the EC, in its proposal to the Law Ministry, had argued that campaigning during a pandemic would be challenging for candidates. In order to follow the Commission’s restrictions on rallies and meetings, candidates will end up with more small gatherings to avoid crowding, which will lead to added expenditure.
The Law Ministry’s Monday notification is silent on whether the increase will be withdrawn once the pandemic is over.
Last month, the EC issued a special set of guidelines for campaigning amid a pandemic. For instance, for candidates, the EC capped 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.
Only two people can accompany a candidate for filing of nomination papers, while the number of attendees at a rally or gathering cannot exceed “the limit prescribed by State Disaster Management Authority for public gatherings”.
The BJP, in its feedback to the poll panel, recently suggested that the expenditure ceiling for candidates be raised to accommodate the spending on masks, soap, PPE kits and thermal screening during campaigning. Alternatively, it had said, such expenditure should be added to the party’s account and not the candidate’s.
The current expenditure limit for state and Parliament elections differs from state to state. In case of Lok Sabha elections, a candidate can spend between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state they are contesting from. For all states, except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, a candidate can spend a maximum of Rs 70 lakh on canvassing. So candidates contesting the next Lok Sabha elections from these states will have their expenditure limit increased to Rs 77 lakh.
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