In a bid to prevent expenditure manipulation by candidates or political parties just before the civic polls, election authorities have fixed rates for eatables, campaign materials and logistics for the candidates.
Candidates can spend a maximum of Rs8 on every cup of tea or coffee, while light snacks such as samosa, batata-wada and upma-shira have a fixed rate of Rs15.
The cost of each meal will have to be Rs70. Authorities have also fixed the rates of various other items and a strict vigil on the expenditure would make it difficult for the candidates to find loopholes to adjust the expenditure declared.
The state Election Commission (SEC) recently increased the limit of election expenditure to Rs10 lakh a candidate from Rs5 lakh, the limit ascertained five years ago. However, election authorities in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have decided to follow the rate list of the 2014 Assembly elections for various items on which the candidates can spend money during their campaign. Right from the fares for hiring the taxi/vehicles to good carriages, hotel accommodation to banners, flags and stationary, including pen/pencils, paste, papers for pamphlets — everything has a rate fixed by the authorities.
“The civic bodies — BMC for Mumbai — decide on the rates of various items required for the election campaign, as per the standard rates applicable. Although candidates and political parties insist on lower rates so that the expenditure is fitted within the ascertained limits, we finalise the rates according to the prevailing market standards with consensus from all stakeholders,” Shekhar Channe, secretary, SEC.
Candidates are required to submit their expenditure on a daily basis, although the consolidated expenditure has to be submitted within 30 days of completion of the election process. “The candidates always tend to apply lower rates to various services roped in to keep the expenditure within limits, but the expenditure observers independently ascertain the expenses. Many times, the claims by the candidates and report by the observers vary and the decision by the authorities prevails,” said another official from the SEC.
The rates finalised by the election authorities are set according to the prevailing rates in the market. For instance, the rates finalised for the eatables are reasonable, according to hotel owners association Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association (Ahar). “The rates finalised for tea/coffee, light snacks and meals are reasonable as the eatables are served in bulk and are moderate in quality. The hotels and restaurants do not generally supply these items for elections rallies and meetings. The light snacks prescribed by election authorities in its rate card include wadas, upma/shira and can be easily available at the given rates,” said Adarsh Shetty, president, Ahar.
Candidates generally differ on the expenses evaluated by expenditure observers. “Many a times, material owned by the candidates is subjected to official expenditure. Even when party workers spend on meals and snacks on their own, the expenditure is shown in yjr candidate’s account,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, whose daughter Sana is contesting from ward 165.