On election expenses


Only for the very rich

A perception is arising that with candidates spending in eight figures to win seats in the provincial and national assemblies and many times more in the case of the senate seats, the legislative assemblies are turning into exclusive millionaires’ clubs. The facts are so obvious that these are recognised also by political leaders and the courts. Last month, both Khurshid Shah and Ch Nisar Ali Khan publicly complained that large amounts of money had changed hands during the Senate polls. On Monday, hearing a petition seeking a curb on election expenses the CJ observed that various lobbies invested money in the elections to come in the government. Unless action is taken to bring election expenses under control, neither a middle class man nor a small party would be able to take part in elections.

Not that there is a lack of laws to regulate election expenses. Under Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1976 presently a candidate cannot exceed the limit of Rs 1.5 million in case of an election to a National Assembly seat and Rs 1.00 million in case of a Provincial Assembly seat. Other Sections of RPA make it obligatory for a contesting candidate to submit the return of election expenses within 30 days of the publication of the name of returned candidate. Despite the presence of the legal requirements, these cannot be enforced because the lawmakers have failed to create an implementation machinery.

While hearing arguments on the petition a learned judge asked the counsel not to “put the burden of 180 million (people) on the court” and asked him why he had not approached the parliament for curtailing expenditure in the general elections. It is encouraging that the courts are realising that they cannot resolve all the issues under the sun. In case the SC drops the hot potato, either the parliament or the Election Commission have to take up the challenge to make it possible for a middle class man and smaller parties to contest the elections.