Coming in the backdrop of Modi government’s demonetisation decision, the upcoming Assembly elections in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab — are expected to be different from previous polls in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the decision to ban old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes on November 8, 2016, leading to an unprecedented cash crunch in the country. Crores of people were both positively and negatively affected by the decision taken by the government to curb black money and corruption. The government followed up note ban with a push on cashless transactions.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has now taken some new decisions to promote cashless transactions by candidates during the upcoming Assembly elections. As such, the candidates would have to be extra careful with their election expenses as any discrepancy may land them in a legal stranglehold.
In a press conference today, Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr Nasim Zaidi explained the poll panel’s strategy to monitor election expenses by candidates. Here are some highlights of the poll panel’s strategy.
1. Separate bank accounts: Candidates would have to open a separate bank account and incur their election expenses from that very account.
2. Air intelligence unit: The ECI has asked Investigation Directorate (ID) of Income Tax Department to open Air Intelligence units at airports in the poll-bound states. The ID has been entrusted with the task of gathering intelligence and taking necessary action against movement of a large sum of money in the five states.
3. Standard Operating Procedure for the seizure of cash and release: The ECI has modified the Standard Operating Procedure for seizure of cash and release to avoid inconvenience to common people with a genuine need for carrying cash. Besides, there would an appellate body in every district to attend petitions from people. “The Committee will suo motu examine each case of seizure by the Police or Flying Squad or Static teams and in suitable cases immediate steps will be taken to release the same,” ECI said in a release.
Union budget was presented after the completion of election process in 2012. Why this time 3 days before?https://t.co/teuTuwVQft pic.twitter.com/ZdUzUjLEkx
4. Campaign vehicles: Candidates will have to show vehicle hiring charges or fuel expenses in their election expenditure account. Unless the candidates intimate the Returning Officer for withdrawing the permission, the notional expenditure on account of campaign vehicles will be calculated based on the number of vehicles for which permissions would be granted by the RO.
5. Expenditure filing: Political parties will be required to file a part expenditure statement in respect of the lump sum payments made to the candidate, within 30 days after the declaration of results.
6. All expenditure must be accounted: All expenditure incurred by candidates, their party agents or party leaders on their travel, boarding, lodging etc, who travel to overseas countries for the purpose of canvassing in their favour to seek votes of overseas electors residing there, would be considered as the expenditure incurred or authorised by candidates in connection with their election and will have to be included in their account of election expenses.
Any inducement to overseas electors by way of air tickets or any other documents to induce them, in cash or kind, to come to India for the purpose of voting at the election would be considered as electoral offence of ‘bribery’ within the meaning of section 171B of the IPC as also the corrupt practice of ‘Bribery’ within the meaning of section 123(1) of the R.P. Act, 1951.
7. Candidate’ Booth/ (Kiosk) Outside Polling Station: The Commission has decided that the candidates’ booths set up outside the polling stations should be deemed to have been set up by the candidates as part of their individual campaign and not by way of general party propaganda. All such expenditure incurred on such candidates’ booths shall be deemed to have been incurred/authorised by candidate/his election agent, so as to be included in his account of election expenses.
The ECI has asked DEOs to notify rates of candidates’ booths set up outside polling stations after due consultation with political parties as per the Commission’s guidelines.
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 4, 2017
8: Ceiling on expenses: The Government of India had revised election expenses ceiling for candidates on February 28, 2014. As per the revised ceilings, the maximum limit of election expenses for the Assembly Constituencies in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh is Rs 28 lakh per candidate and Rs 20 lakh per candidate in Manipur and Goa.
9: Final accounts by parties: All political parties sponsoring candidates for Assembly elections will have to maintain day-to-day accounts of all election campaign expenses and submit the accounts to the Commission within 75 days of the completion of such elections. The ECI would upload the accounts on its website for public.
10. Ads on channels owned by candidates: Ads by candidates for promoting their electoral prospects on TV/Cable channel/ or in newspapers owned by them would be considered as election expenditure and must be accounted in the election expenditure statement as per the exisiting rate cards for ads in the respective media.