The Election Commission has added a new column in candidates' election expenditure returns to submit information on money spent on digital campaigning in the upcoming polls in five states. The candidates used to mention money spent on digital campaigning in previous elections also, but this is for the first time that a dedicated column has been created to "capture" details of such expenditure.
In a bid to check the spread of COVID-19, Election Commission has extended a ban on holding physical rallies roadshows and similar physical campaigning events till January 22. With the ban on outdoor physical events in place, parties are using digital and online platforms to reach out to voters. The new column has been created for the first time for elections in Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur by tweaking the format of returns.
"Parties and candidates (so far) used to disclose on their own such expenditure ... they used to provide details of expenditure on things like digital vans ... they used to show expenditure under this category. Now, a dedicated point has been created to capture such expenditure from this (set of) polls," a functionary explained.
The functionary said it is not for the first first time such disclosure by the candidates and parties will be made. "But the manner of disclosure now is dedicated," the functionary explained.
According to section 10A of the Representation of the People Act 1951, a candidate who fails to lodge his or her election expenditures within the prescribed time is liable to be disqualified by EC for a period of three years from contesting polls.
Ahead of the announcement of the election schedule, the expenditure limit for candidates for campaigning was hiked by the government based on the recommendations of the poll panel.