What are the Rules Around Star Campaigners?

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What are the Rules Around Star Campaigners? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What are the Legal Provisions for Star Campaigners?
  • What Benefits Do Star Campaigners Get?
  • What are the Concerns Regarding Campaigning by the Star Campaigners?
  • What Needs to be Done to Maintain Decorum and Restraint in Campaigning?

Why in News?

Sunita Kejriwal, wife of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, was appointed as a ‘star campaigner’ by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for its campaign in Gujarat.

What are the Legal Provisions for Star Campaigners?

  • Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act 1951 (RP Act) provides for law relating to expenditure incurred by ‘leaders of a political party’.
    • These ‘leaders of a political party’ are popularly known as ‘star campaigners’.
  • These star campaigners are usually the top leaders of a political party but can include other celebrities as well.
  • The only requirement is that these persons have to be members of the political party that appoints them.
  • The RP Act provides that a recognised political party (national or State) can appoint a maximum of 40-star campaigners while a registered unrecognised political party can appoint up to 20.
  • These names are to be communicated to the Election Commission (EC) and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the States as applicable within seven days from the date of notification of such election.
  • In case of a multi-phase election, a political party can submit a separate list of star campaigners for different phases.

What Benefits Do Star Campaigners Get?

  • The RP Act provides that expenditure incurred by the ‘leaders of a political party’ on account of travel for campaigning for their political party shall not be deemed to be part of the election expenditure of a candidate of such party.
    • The election expenditure limit for candidates is ₹95 lakh per Lok Sabha constituency in larger States and ₹75 lakh in smaller States.
    • Hence, these star campaigners would be vote-fetchers for candidates set up by respective parties without affecting their expenditure limit.
  • However, this is applicable only if the star campaigners limit themselves to general campaigning for the party.
    • If in any rally/meeting organised, the star campaigner seeks votes in the name of contesting candidate(s) or shares the dais with them, then the rally/meeting expense shall be apportioned to the election expenditure of such candidate(s).
  • If the star campaigner incurs boarding/lodging expenses while campaigning for any candidate(s), it shall be included in the expenditure account of such candidate(s) irrespective of whether it is paid for by the candidate(s).
  • Further, if any candidate(s) travel with the star campaigner, then 50% of the travel expenditure of the star campaigner shall also be apportioned to such candidate(s).

What are the Concerns Regarding Campaigning by the Star Campaigners?

  • The star campaigners of all parties have been found guilty of using inappropriate and abusive words against leaders of other political parties.
    • They were appealing to caste/communal feelings of electors and making unsubstantiated allegations.
  • Another issue is with respect to the assessment of expenditure incurred for the rally/meeting of such star campaigners which is always significantly lower than the actual expenditure.
    • This may be due to the rate card used by the EC that does not reflect current market rates for various items.
    • This results in lower apportionment of expenditure to contesting candidates.

What Needs to be Done to Maintain Decorum and Restraint in Campaigning?

  • At present, the RP Act stipulates that political parties can appoint or revoke the appointment of star campaigners.
    • As per Article 324 of the Constitution, the EC is the highest authority that has been vested with the powers of superintendence and control of elections.
    • Hence, the law may be amended to authorise the EC to revoke the ‘star campaigner’ status of a leader, in case of any serious violation of Model Code of Conduct.
    • This would hopefully instil a sense of responsibility among them and ensure that campaigns maintain the necessary decorum and restraint.
  • Also, the assessment and apportionment of rally/meeting expenses where star campaigners’ campaign for particular candidate(s) should be made more robust.

Q.1. What are recognised political parties in India?

A registered party is recognised as a National/state Party (by the Election Commission of India) only if it fulfils certain conditions. Parties recognised as such are given unique symbols which only the official candidates of that party can use.

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Q.2. What is the significance of Article 324 of the Constitution?

Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of President of India and the office of Vice-President of India shall be vested in the Election Commission.