Ceiling on expenditure for LS polls: District poll panels decide menu and rates

Election Commission of India, ECI (Photo: PTI)

Candidates in Jalandhar in Punjab can spend Rs 15 for a cup of tea and the same price for a samosa that they offer to people during public rallies and campaign trails in the Lok Sabha elections.

However, those in Mandla in Madhya Pradesh can spend Rs 7 for a cup of tea and another Rs 7.50 for a piece of samosa, which is considered a staple snack in many parts of the country.

With the 18th Lok Sabha elections approaching, district poll panels are fixing expenditure rates as part of monitoring election expenditure.

The candidates will have to manage their expenses within the prescribed limit. These rate cards often become a topic of ‘meme-fest’ on social media about the prices being out of sync with the current level of inflation.

In most states, including Andhra Pradesh, the expenditure ceiling for a Lok Sabha candidate has been set at Rs 95 lakh. However, in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, the limit is slightly lower at Rs 75 lakh per candidate. Similarly, the expenditure ceiling for Union Territories ranges from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 95 lakh per candidate, depending on the region.

In Jalandhar, the price of chole bhature is capped at Rs 40, while mutton and chicken cost Rs 250 and 500 per kg respectively. Desserts like dhodha (Rs 450 per kg) and ghee pinni (Rs 300 per kg) are also on the menu, besides lassi and nimbu pani, priced at Rs 20 and 15 per glass respectively.

The cost of tea is low at Rs 5 on the rate card of Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, but the samosa is priced higher at Rs 10. The Balaghat rate card also has idli, sambhar vada and poha-jalebi priced at Rs 20, while the cost for dosa and upma have been fixed at Rs 30.

In Thoubal district of violence-hit Manipur, tea, samosa, kachori, khajur (dates) and gaja (dessert) are priced at Rs 10 each.

Candidates in the northeastern state’s Tengnoupal district will have to stick to Rs 5 for black tea and Rs 10 for milk tea. The list includes a wider spread of non-vegetarian items, with duck and pork costing Rs 300 and Rs 400 per kg respectively. Chicken (broiler) and fish like rohu, mrigal and sareng are also on the list.

In Chennai, the price of tea has been increased from Rs 10 to Rs 15 and coffee from Rs 15 to Rs 20, while the rate of chicken biryani has been reduced from Rs 180 to Rs 150 per pack compared to 2019.

The expenditure chart for Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida/Greater Noida) lists vegetarian thali for Rs 100, a samosa or a cup of tea for Rs 10, kachori for Rs 15, a roll for Rs 25 and a kilo of jalebi for Rs 90 per kg.

Candidates from North Goa can have batata vada on the menu for Rs 15, the same as for a samosa. The tea is capped at Rs 15, while coffee can cost Rs 20.

The rate card for Haryana’s Jind offers the candidates to rent a tandoor for Rs 300 and includes delicacies like dal makhni and mixed vegetables for Rs 130 while matar paneer is priced at 160. Sandwiches like butter nan, missi roti and regular roti are also available. the dish alongside desserts including kaju katli and gulab jamun.

While parties and candidates often offer employees and voters drinks, alcohol is not mentioned on any of the rate cards.

Other headlines mentioned on the rate cards range from expensive infrastructure such as helipads, luxury vehicles and farms to miscellaneous items such as flowers, coolers, tower ACs and a sofa.

The rate cards have also prescribed the ceiling on the rates for hiring various vehicles for campaigns, from a Tata Safari or Scorpio to a Honda City or Ciaz or a bus to transport the public to the rally site.

Some poll panels have also set rates for rose garlands, marigold garlands and bouquets, while some also include heads as party favors including caps and flags.

The rate cards also include a list of allowable rates for venue and accommodation rentals. The expenditure includes expenditure on public meetings, rallies, advertisements, hoardings, pamphlets, flexis, campaign materials and all other election-related works.

There is currently a ceiling on campaign funds for individual candidates in electoral competition, but there is no ceiling on the money that political parties can spend on electoral activities.

As per the ECI’s revised guidelines, the maximum allowable expenditure for campaigning in a Lok Sabha constituency varies across states and Union Territories.

Section 77 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 says that candidates are expected to maintain an account of the expenditure incurred by them for the election from the “date of his nomination” to the “date of announcement of the result”.

The elections to the 543 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases, starting with 102 in the first phase on April 19. The votes will be counted on June 4.

(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

First print: March 29, 2024 | 11:51 am IST