Bill for removal of caps on electoral expenditure

(PTI Photo)

A private member's bill moved by Congress member M V Rajeev Gowda in Rajya Sabha has sought the removal of the cap on electoral expenditure by candidates contesting polls and has suggested the state election funding as part of bringing reforms.

The bill suggested amending the Representation of the People's Act, 1951. The problem lies in an idealistic clause which is turning out to be counterproductive in reality, Gowda said while introducing the Bill in the Upper House.

Instead of imposing a limit, transparency should be brought in. All expenditure should be put in the public domain. Candidates should be allowed to legitimately raise funds, he said.

Limit for election expenditure would only help those who have black money to bribe individual voters and hit honest contestants, added Gowda.

He suggested a National Election Fund that has two components, with the first half of the amount being set aside and given to political parties based on their previous historical election performance, and the second half being allocated towards the encouragement of newer parties.

Gowda made a reference to a recent report by Centre for Media Studies which claimed that Rs 60,000 crore was the total election expenditure incurred by various political parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, out of which 45% or nearly Rs 27,000 crore was spent by the BJP alone.

He urged Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to ensure that the Representation of the People's Act, 1951, is amended.

Quoting former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had said that 'All MPs start their parliamentary careers with a lie,' Gowda said the former PM was referring to MPs typically under-declaring how much they had spent on their elections.

A candidate contesting Lok Sabha polls can spend upto Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state they are contesting the poll from.

The expenditure limit for candidates contesting Assembly Elections in bigger states is set at Rs 28 lakh while it is kept at Rs 20 lakh for smaller states. The law prescribes that total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.

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