Supreme Court stayed EC decision on Star Campaigner Status.
Supreme Court in a recent judgment stayed the Election Commission’s October 30 order, canceling the ‘star campaigner’ status of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
Before cancellation of the status Election Commission had issued a written warning to the former CM for his remarks on an opposition leader.
About the SC judgment
SC in its judgment said the Election Commission had no power to determine who should be ‘star campaigner’ of a political party.
As per the petition, Section 77(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Guidelines for Star Campaigners issued by the Election Commission, from time to time, makes selection/revocation of ‘star campaigners the sole prerogative of the political party.
Who is a star campaigner?
A star campaigner is a famous personality campaigning in an election for a political party, who can be a politician, or even a film star, and is famous among the general public. There is no law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner.
They are nominated by the concerned political parties specifying their constituencies and duration of the status.
Is there any law or guidelines governing star campaigners?
There is neither any strict law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner nor the definition of ‘star campaigner’. However, EC after the announcement of polls issues guidelines for the Model Code of Conduct that regulate poll campaigns by candidates.
Under Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the word ‘leaders of a political party’ has been used for the same.
As per guidelines:
- A ‘recognized’ party declared as such by the Election Commission – can nominate a maximum of 40-star campaigners.
- An unrecognized political party can nominate a maximum of 20 star campaigners.
Recently EC revised the guidelines for star campaigners in view of COVID safety norms. As per the revision:
- The maximum limit on the number of star campaigners for recognized National/State political parties has been reduced to 30 in place of 40.
- For unrecognized registered political parties, the number has been limited to 15 from 20.
Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
- The model code refers to a set of norms laid down by the Election Commission of India, with the consensus of political parties.
- MCC bears no statutory backing and remains unenforceable.
- It spells out the dos and don’ts for elections. Political parties, candidates, and polling agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches, and processions, to general conduct, so that free and fair elections take place.
- The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
Read – All about Model Code of Conduct
Why political parties appoint star campaigners?
As per the popular belief, star campaigners attract a large no. of voters compared to ordinary campaigners, but it has more to do with the poll expenses than the fame of star campaigners.
The Election Commission keeps a tab on expenditure incurred by individual candidates during campaign Rs 70 lakh for most states in one constituency by each candidate.
As per Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the cap can lead to disqualification for up to three years.
Expenditure incurred on electioneering by the star campaigner is not added to a candidate’s poll expenditure giving him/her more leeway.
According to the Representation of People’s Act, these expenses will be borne by the political parties. But there are few guidelines that are required to be followed:
- The star campaigner has to stick oneself to general campaigning for the political party.
- Entire campaign cost except expenditure incurred on traveling will be added to the candidate’s election expenses if star campaigner shares the stage with a candidate. This applies even if the star campaigner seeks vote for the candidate taking his or her name.
- The expenditure incurred on the rally will be shared equally by the contestants if more than one candidates share the stage with the star campaigner
- If the candidates are not present but their posters or photographs have been displayed in their constituencies where a star campaigner holds a poll rally, the entire expense will be added to the election expenses of the contestants.
Guidelines for PM acting as a ‘star campaigner’
- The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is a star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on security including on the bullet-proof vehicles will be borne by the government and will not be added to the election expenses of the party or the individual candidate.
- However, if another campaigner travels with the prime minister or a former minister, the individual candidate will have to bear 50 percent of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.
Read more – Issue of star campaigners during Delhi elections