The Congress in Punjab has raised the alarm over “non-availability of sufficient cash” to meet poll expenditure before the Election Commission (EC). State Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh requested the EC to direct the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to relax the post-demonetisation limit on withdrawal of cash from banks and ATMs for candidates for “fair poll play”.
The Congress has already decided to raise demonetisation as a poll issue.
In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, Amarinder said that, given the time constraints, the matter needed urgent attention of the EC and the RBI, to facilitate “fair play of democratic processes”.
“With the existing RBI norms allowing only Rs 24,000 withdrawal a week from savings account and Rs 1 lakh from current account, it is not possible for the candidates to defray their expenditure given the two weeks they would have for campaigning, from January 21 (when final list will be announced by EC after scrutiny of nominations) to February 2 (the last date for electioneering),” he wrote in the letter.
He pointed out that the candidates in poll fray were expected to incur expenditure on their respective campaign as per the limits prescribed by the EC, and it requires proper maintenance of accounts. The EC has fixed Rs 28 lakh as limit of poll expenditure for the state.
“The way banks are treating us, and not giving adequate cash, we are unable to meet out day to day expenses in the polls,” said Kuljit Nagra, Congress MLA and candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib. “We need lots of money in cash every day for petty expenditure on food, publicity vehicles and for our personal requirement,” said Nagra, who has also reported the matter to the EC.
The EC this time has asked all the candidates to open a separate bank account though which all the elections expenditure be routed.
Congress’ Patiala Rural candidate, Brahm Mohindra, also sent a letter to the EC on Tuesday: “We are allowed expenses of Rs 28 lakh. With less than three weeks left I will not be able to withdraw more than Rs 75,000 at the maximum (as per current norms),” he said seeking instruction for the banks to lift restrictions on withdrawals.
After PM Narendra Modi on November 8 announced to demonetise the then-existing notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, restrictions were imposed on withdrawal of cash from ATMs and the counters in the banks. “We have received a number of complaints and are taking up the matter at the appropriate level,” said chief electoral officer, Punjab, VK Singh.