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Drones for Rs 950/hour, chai for Rs 8: What Punjab candidates can spend this poll season

Punjab State Election Commission has issued a list of 171 items nominees are likely to incur expenses on during campaigning, with a price ceiling for each.

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Chandigarh: Bread pakoda for Rs 10, kachori for Rs 11, samosa with sauce for Rs 10, paneer pakoda for Rs 12, a plate of chhole bhaturey for Rs 30, tea for Rs 8, and coffee for Rs 12.

The Lok Sabha election season has kicked off in earnest with the announcement of dates Sunday, setting the stage for hundreds of campaigns where candidates will go all out to woo the electorate.

To make sure candidates don’t breach the Rs 70 lakh expense limit set by the Election Commission of India, the Punjab State Election Commission Tuesday issued a list of 171 items nominees are likely to incur expenses on, with a price ceiling for each.

Drones, whose use has been allowed as long as it costs Rs 950/hour or below, makes an entry into the list, which is a regular affair during elections to keep voter inducement in check.

According to Dr Karuna Raju, the Punjab chief electoral officer, each candidate or their agent will have to maintain a register of expenditure and submit its entries regularly.

“They can e-file the information or submit it to the election commission office,” he added.

The commission also appoints an expenditure observer in every constituency to ensure candidates don’t overspend.

Elections to Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats will take place 19 May, the last phase of the seven-phase election.

Also read: Punjab rebel parties plan to fight Lok Sabha polls on common symbol, will be first to do so

From matthi to merchandise

The commission’s rather detailed list lays down prices for every likely expense, down to the rent for each cup (Rs 3), plastic chair (Rs 8) and cooler (Rs 500).

The prices are not highly subsidised but lower than the commercial rates.

Almost everything that can be served during rallies and village meetings — from jalebi, and laddoo to matthi and paratha and soft drink and water — has been listed, as has every fixture for a rally or public meeting venue.

Each mat should cost Rs 25 or below, a set of pateele (pans and pots) Rs 30, a table Rs 25, and table cloth Rs 10.

A barricade built with bamboo should cost Rs 20, and one using wire mesh Rs 35. A big garland should cost Rs 15 and a smaller one Rs 10.

Rates have also been fixed for the premises candidates will rent to set up their office on the campaign trail: Rs 5,000 per month in rural areas and Rs 10,000 per month in urban areas.

The merchandise to be doled out — like badges, posters, flags, stickers, caps, banners, cut-outs, hoardings, CDs — has been accounted for as well. While a printed T-shirt with sleeves can cost no more than Rs 60, a sleeveless one is capped at Rs 50. A printed muffler should cost Rs 45.

The list also specifies labour charges for electricians, masons and carpenters, besides the rates for hiring vehicles. It specifies the types of vehicles to be deployed, as well as the distance they are driven.

Talking about the process of devising the list, Raju said, “We held a marathon meeting with representatives of all the main parties in Punjab today [Tuesday]. Among other things, the difference between what is the candidate’s expenditure and what is the party’s expenditure was also explained to them.”

Raju cited the participation of star campaigners to stress the difference between the two expense heads.

During a rally, a star campaigner cannot speak in favour of a particular candidate. If they do, the expenditure incurred will be calculated as the candidate’s.

“The rules are very clear,” said Raju. “The star campaigner will campaign for the party. The posters of such a rally cannot have his pictures with those of the candidate. A particular candidate’s name cannot be spoken out during the rally by the star campaigner and the candidate cannot be seen standing next to the star campaigner.”

Also read: AAP will win all 7 Delhi seats in Lok Sabha elections, says Arvind Kejriwal


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