The Congress’s Pune unit on Thursday told the district election office that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) was charging an “exorbitant amount” to allow political parties to hold “corner meetings” during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. For such meetings, the PMC is charging Rs 4,000 as fees, Rs 1,000 for cleanliness charges and Rs 2,500 as deposit amount.
In a letter to the election office, the city unit of the Congress pointed out that there were lakhs of voters in the city and it was necessary for the candidate to hold at least 300 corner meetings to reach out to all of them. But the high amount being charged by the PMC made it difficult to hold too many such meetings, said the party. “The candidate will have to shell out at least Rs 12 lakh for holding corner meetings to reach out to the maximum number of voters. But the total expenditure allowed for the election campaign is Rs 70 lakh and if a large amount is spent only on corner meetings, then it will be difficult for the candidate to manage expenses,” said party spokesperson Ramesh Iyer.
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He said if the candidates of registered political parties were finding it difficult to spend such a large amount for corner meetings, it would be even more difficult for Independent candidates. The Election Commission should ensure that charges for corner meetings were lowered so that all candidates are able to hold such meetings in the city, said Iyer.
Meanwhile, political parties in Pune are also struggling to gain access to larger spaces for election rallies as the private grounds in the city are mostly owned by educational institutions, which are not allowing the parties to hold such rallies. The Congress had earlier expressed its concern on the unavailability of ground to hold election rallies and now the BJP has also raised the same issue. “The election office should have ensured the availability of bigger grounds for holding election rallies,” said BJP leader Ujjwal Keskar.
For now, most election rallies are being held at private grounds on the outskirts of the city to accommodate a bigger crowd.