Election Commission debates if there should be different budget limits for candidates from different constituencies — for example, a Mumbai vs Vidarbha.
New Delhi: The Election Commission is considering the possibility of having differential expenditure limits for candidates depending on the constituencies they are fighting from, ThePrint has learnt.
“There is some discussion in the commission over whether there should be different limits for candidates depending on the cost of living in their constituencies,” a senior EC official told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
“Why should the limit of expenditure be the same for a candidate from Vidarbha as it is for a candidate from Mumbai where the cost of living is much higher?”
Right now, the expenditure limit of candidates varies from state to state. Different states are divided into different categories depending on their population, size and development status.
For example, in bigger states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, the expenditure limit for Lok Sabha constituencies is Rs 70 lakh, while for smaller states such as Goa and those in the north-east, the limit is Rs 54 lakh.
For assembly elections, the ceiling is Rs 28 lakh for bigger states, and Rs 20 lakh for the smaller ones.
Poll body will face challenges
The EC is contemplating this move since, within states, the cost of living and development status of different constituencies can be significantly disparate, the official said.
But the poll body will have to examine the feasibility of taking such a step thoroughly before taking a decision, the official said.
“A move like this can be challenged on the grounds that it is discriminatory for different candidates.”
The move would be fraught with other complexities as well, said S.K. Mendiratta, the EC’s former legal counsel. “How can you study the specificities of each constituency separately? It will lead to a lot of confusion,” he said.
“We have never undertaken such an exercise so far,” Mendiratta, who has been the longest serving legal counsel of the commission, said. “It will require studying the area, population, cost of living of each constituency.”
Further, it is not that easy since one cannot simply conclude that Vidharbha is less developed than Mumbai so it should have a lesser ceiling, especially since Vidharbha is geographically much larger than Mumbai, he explained.
While the expenditure limits for candidates are recommended by the Election Commission, it is finally the government that approves the ceiling. The exercise to revise the ceiling depending on the increase in the cost of living, expenditure and prices is regularly taken.