New Delhi: Details emerging from the all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission (EC) on Monday have revealed that all major political parties except the BJP wanted a cap on election-related expenses, said a report on Tuesday. The report, published in The Indian Express, said the parties were in agreement that only a cap on election expenses could ensure a level playing field. While speculations were rife that the main issue for discussion was the relevance of EVMs, sources told the daily that the issue of funding and whether there should be a limit on the expenses during elections became a key discussion point. (Also read: Cong Writes to EC on Use of Ballot Paper)
The BJP, represented by general secretary Bhupendra Yadav and Union Minister JP Nadda, was of the view that since all political parties have to declare their expenditure while filing their income tax returns, “usmein kisi prakaar ki capping nahi lagai jaani chahiye (there should be no cap on that)”. In fact, Yadav said the parties “should not be restricted”, rather “usmein zyaada se zyaada prachaar karne ka avsar aur suvidha deni chahiye (parties should be given more opportunities and facilities to advertise)”.
The Congress was represented by Mukul Wasnik and Mohammad Khan. Wasnik said his party supported the idea, but for the same, a “formula can be worked out on how this can be done”. The party also brought out a statement later wherein it said it “wholeheartedly welcomes” the proposed amendment. Addressing media after the meeting, CEC OP Rawat said if it could be done legally, “then the commission will take a call on it”. More than 40 parties, including seven national parties, were present at the meeting. (Also read: EC to Provide Solution to Parties’ Concerns)
AAP’s Raghav Chadha said, “You cannot have that X candidate is spending only 5 lakh rupees but the BJP or Congress or whichever party is spending Rs 500 crore in that constituency.” He also raised the issue of foreign funding, an issue also brought up by CPM’s Nilotpal Basu. Chadha said, “foreign companies through electoral bonds can fund political parties, that has serious national security implications”. The other issue was that of malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). While many parties voiced their concerns, the BJP did not quite agree. The parties said there should be a fixed number of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines that must be audited. Till this was not possible, the Congress said, elections should be conducted via paper ballot.