This is expected to reduce the use of unaccounted money and stop the malpractice of parties showing candidates’ extra expenditure in party accounts.(Arijit Sen/HT PHOTO)
This is expected to reduce the use of unaccounted money and stop the malpractice of parties showing candidates’ extra expenditure in party accounts.(Arijit Sen/HT PHOTO)

Cap on party expense in local polls on cards

This is expected to reduce the use of unaccounted money and stop the malpractice of parties showing candidates’ extra expenditure in party accounts.
By Surendra P Gangan | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON SEP 21, 2018 05:07 AM IST

The State Election Commission (SEC), which holds elections for local self-government bodies, is planning to impose restrictions on the election expenditure of political parties, apart from the limit that already exists for candidates.

This is expected to reduce the use of unaccounted money and stop the malpractice of parties showing candidates’ extra expenditure in party accounts. “We are examining the possibility of such a limit for the parties as well. It will help us bring more transparency in the elections,” said JS Saharia, Commissioner, SEC. Currently, the SEC has capped the expenditure of candidates in local bodies between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for civic bodies and Rs 6 lakh for Panchayat Raj bodies. Though parties need to submit their expenditure details within a stipulated period after the elections, there is no limit on their expenditure.

Organisations and NGOs working for election reforms have been batting for a restriction on expenditure by political parties to reduce the unaccounted money in elections. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has moved the Delhi high court demanding a limit on the same.

“Our experience is that candidates either lie or furnish misleading information about their expenditure. In 2009-Lok Sabha elections, 99% candidates had shown expenditure less than 50% of their limit. In most cases, the expenses are also shown in party’s account as there is no limit. We have demanded either for a limit on the parties’ [expenditure] or removal of the limit on the candidate,” said Jagdish Chhokar, a founder member of the ADR.

He added that if the Maharashtra SEC is considering to limit the poll expenditure by parties, it will help in similar amendments at the national level. An SEC official said the commission is examining the four laws under which local elections are conducted. “We are examining if we can use the plenary power without going for amendments in them. In case of amendments, we have to request the state,” the official said.

The SEC recently made the disclosure of the source of income public while submitting election affidavits compulsory. The limit on parties will also help accountability on spending by parties.

“For instance, the choppers used by the ‘star campaigners’ is not subjected to the audit, and are shown in the party expenses . The limit on party expenditure will help to check such expenses,” the official said. Another official said even if it is brought in, the implementation will be a big challenge considering the unreasonable expenses submitted by candidates under existing provisions.

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