Mumbai civic polls: Election body allows Rs 8 for a cup of coffee, candidates fume at paltry limit

Mumbai: Surprising the candidates ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation polls in February, the Maharashtra State Election Commission has retained the same cost ceiling approved in 2011 for the contestants to spend during the campaigning.

The notification raised eyebrows as the State Election Commission (SEC) completely ignored the inflation factor even as a simple cup of tea or coffee now cost more than it had in 2011. The state poll body has allowed Rs 8 for a cup of either or coffee while in reality, the hot beverages cost more today. The standard cost for a cup of tea and coffee would be around Rs 20 and Rs 30 respectively.

 Mumbai civic polls: Election body allows Rs 8 for a cup of coffee, candidates fume at paltry limit

Poll time. Reuters

Apart from the snacks and hot beverages, costs of stationery goods, photocopies, and other necessary items have gone north in five years while the permitted amount remains bereft of reality.

The standard rate chart of expenditure incurred by the candidates has not been updated since 30 July 2011. The last civic elections were held on 16 February 2012. Firstpost has a copy of the rate chart of the last polls which fixed prices of tea and coffee at Rs 8, light snacks at RS 15, lunch/dinner at Rs70, fees to polling agent on poll day at Rs 100 while the polling agent (reliever) got Rs 50.

What has made matters complicated for the candidates is that the prices fixed for the necessary items are less than the prevailing market rates. For instance, the cost of each Xerox paper is kept at 45 paise while today's rate is Re 1. Prices for a matchbox, chalk, and needle as sanctioned by the state election body are 50 paise, 20 paise and 50 paise respectively while these things now cost Re 1 for a matchbox and chalk each while the needle is priced at Rs 2.

In its notification, the SEC announced that the standard code of conduct and the expenses for the A category Municipal Corporation is Rs 5 lakh limit for the candidates. The limit for the B and C category municipal corporation is Rs 4 lakh and D category Municipal Corporation the limit for the election expenses is Rs 3 lakh.

The political parties have to hand over details of expenses within 30 days after the announcement of results to the concerned collector or commissioner of the civic body, the SEC said. Restrictions have also been imposed on the collection of party fund, the SEC said.

Political parties are furious with the SEC for such paltry limit as election expenses.

"How could the SEC give us rates that are five years old? The polling agent takes Rs 500 to Rs 750 on poll day whereas the election department allowed us to spend only Rs 100. It's totally ridiculous. These rates have to either change or the SECshould get us the polling agents," said a Shiv Sena candidate contesting the poll from a western suburb. "It is impossible to contest the election following these norms. So we demand an increase in expense limits to Rs 10 lakh," he said.

When contacted, Maharashtra State Election Commissioner Jageshwar S Saharia confirmed that they also got the demand to increase the present expense limit of Rs 10 lakh from Rs lakh.

"Many political parties demand that the expenses cost need to be increased. We have not yet decided but we are positive to upgrade the current rates," he said. "The expenses are too low keeping in mind that any common man or riksha driver, vegetable vendor also contest the election."

Besides the BMC, nine other civic bodies will go to polls on 21 February. Even as the parties have started their campaigns broadly, the uncertainty on the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance as the kept the candidates from these parties on tenterhooks.

A similar situation is prevailing in the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party camp as well. Both the camps are likely to sort out the alliance equation on Tuesday evening for all the 10 civic body polls.

Candidates can submit their nominations from 27 January to 3 February. The last day of withdrawal of nomination is 7 February, after which the real picture will emerge on the candidates. Usually, the campaign hots up in the last two weeks ahead of the polls.

"Nearly 12 crore voters will exercise their franchise in a two-phased election to 10 municipal corporations, 26 zilla parishads and 283 panchayat samitis across the state," Saharia announced last week.

BMC is the richest civic body in the country with an annual budget of Rs 37,000 crore. The amount is bigger than the state budgets of Goa and Kerala.

Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 17:16:28 IST