The Congress party’s Punjab unit has requested the Election Commission (EC) to direct the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to relax the limit on withdrawal of cash from banks and ATMs for candidates to facilitate “fair play of democratic processes”.
In a letter to chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi, state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh said on Wednesday that, given the time constraint, the matter needs urgent attention of the EC and the RBI.
“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.
He pointed out that the candidates in the 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 the limit of poll expenditure for the state.
The poll panel has directed candidates contesting polls in the five states to open separate bank accounts for election expenses and said that all payments above Rs 20,000 must be made by cheque. Candidates are also required to provide details of their poll expenses to the panel by no later than 75 days after the elections.
Several other Congress leaders have also written to the poll panel regarding the matter.
“ ... we are unable to meet out day to day expenses in the polls. We need lots of money in cash every day for petty expenditure on food, publicity vehicles and for our personal requirement,” Kuljit Nagra, Congress MLA and candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib, said.
Congress’ Patiala Rural candidate Brahm Mohindra, who also sent a letter to the EC on Tuesday, said the existing limit is not sufficient for candidates.
“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.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, restrictions were imposed on withdrawal of cash from ATMs and the counters in the banks.
The Congress has already decided to raise demonetisation as a poll issue.
“We have received a number of complaints and are taking up the matter at the appropriate level,” Punjab’s chief electoral officer VK Singh said.
The assembly elections in Punjab will be held on February 4 and votes will be counted on March 11