EC, RBI in tussle over hike of cash limit for candidates

The EC, has  asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to increase the cash withdrawal limit for candidates fighting elections. RBI, however, is reported to have refused to make an exception for candidates contesting assembly polls in the five states.

The Commission had on Wednesday requested RBI to enhance the withdrawal limit of candidates to Rs2,00,000 from Rs24,000 per week imposed post demonetisation as the nominees would find it difficult to meet their campaign expenditure.

The EC has urged the central bank to reconsider the proposal. The commission has now written back to RBI Governor Urjit Patel expressing "serious concern about the cursory manner in which the issue has been dealt with".

"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 panel said.

On Wednesday, the commission had told RBI that it has been apprised of the problems candidates were facing due to withdrawal limits imposed after the note ban.

The EC said the returning officer of the constituency would issue certificate that the person was a candidate in the fray and the contestant be allowed to withdraw Rs2,00,000 cash per week from the bank account opened especially to meet poll expenses.

The EC wanted the facility to be extended till 11 March, the day of counting.

Candidates are bound to open an election account for meeting poll-related expenditure which is monitored by the Election Commission.

The Election Commission reminded the Reserve Bank that as per law, candidates contesting assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab can spend Rs28 lakh each for electioneering.

The limit in Goa and Manipur is Rs20 lakh each.

The poll panel said despite paying amounts through cheques, candidates still need hard cash for petty expenses, adding that the problem would be worst in rural areas where banking facilities are inadequate.