Assembly Elections 2017: More Cash For Candidates? Election Commission Irked By RBI’s Response

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New Delhi:  The Election Commission’s written request to the Reserve Bank of India to allow more cash withdrawal for election candidates in the five states has been turned down. The central bank said the special provision was not possible at the moment, piquing the poll authority to give a curt response. “It appears that the RBI has not realised the gravity of the situation… It is reiterated that it is the constitutional mandate of the commission to conduct free and fair elections and to provide level playing field to all candidates. In order to facilitate proper conduct of elections, it is imperative that directions issued by the commission are complied with,” the poll authority said in a fresh letter to RBI chief Urjit Patel expressing “serious concern” over the bank’s response.

The commission had on Wednesday requested the RBI to enhance the withdrawal limit for candidates from 24,000 to 2 lakhs rupees per week to help them meet their campaign expenditure. The weekly cash withdrawal limit set after the Nov 8 notes ban – which preceded a massive cash crunch across the country – has not been increased.

Assembly elections in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur – begin from February 4. The poll panel wants the facility to be provided till results are announced on March 11.

The commission said the returning officer of the constituency would issue certificate of a person’s candidacy which would allow him/her to withdraw the extra cash from bank accounts opened especially to meet poll expenses, which the commission said it monitors.

The poll panel has now asked the central bank to reconsider the request.

It reminded the central bank that as per law, candidates contesting assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab can spend Rs. 28 lakh each for electioneering. The limit in Goa and Manipur is Rs. 20 lakh each.

The poll panel argued that despite paying amounts through cheques, candidates still need hard cash for petty expenses, especially in rural areas where banking facilities are limited.