SC asks who decides on ‘star campaigner:’ Here’s what the tag means

What does it mean – for the party, the individual and the candidate for whom the star is campaigning – to be removed as the star campaigner?

Kamal Nath
A star campaigner is one who can pull crowds and helps brand the party, if not the candidate. | File photo: PTI

The Election Commission (EC) recently removed former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath from the list of star campaigners in the Madhya Pradesh by-elections.

Chief Justice SA Bobde asked the EC: “Who has given power to you (the Election Commission) to remove a candidate from the star campaigner list? It is you or a leader of the party?”

Also read: Who gave you the power to strip star campaigner status, apex court asks EC

“We are staying the Election Commission’s order and the EC has no power,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
In January, the Election Commission had removed BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from BJP’s list of star campaigners during the Delhi state elections.
Thakur had encouraged the crowd at a rally to chant “desh ke gaddaron ko goli maaro (gun down traitors)” and Singh, in an interview, claimed that Shaheen Bagh protestors could “enter homes and rape sisters and daughters”.
So, what does it mean — for the party, the individual and the candidate for whom the star is campaigning – to be removed as the star campaigner?
A star campaigner is the one who can pull crowds and help brand the party, if not the candidate.
Why is a star campaigner important? 
Poll expenses are a contentious issue with political parties and candidates constantly demanding more relaxations on spending for campaigning.
The Election Commission relented to the demand during Bihar polls when it increased the expenditure ceiling for the state polls from Rs 28 lakh to Rs 30.8 lakh. This is the first hike in expenditure limit since the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

The expenditure incurred on campaigning by ‘stars’ is exempt from being added to the election expenditure of a candidate. However, this only applies when a star campaigner limits herself to a general campaign for the political party she represents.

A recognised political party can have up to 40 star campaigners while an unrecognised party (but registered) political party can have 20. The list of star campaigners has to be communicated to the Chief Electoral Officer and Election Commission within a week from the date of notification of an election.

Also read: ‘What an item:’ Kamal Nath’s sexist remark on woman BJP leader

What if a star campaigner campaigns only for a specific candidate?

If a candidate or the candidate’s election agent shares the stage with a star campaigner at a rally, then the entire expenditure on that rally, other than the travel expenses of the star campaigner, is added to the candidate’s expenses.

Even if the candidate is not present at the star campaigner’s rally, but there are posters with her photographs or her name on display, the entire expenditure will be added to the candidate’s account.

This applies even if the star campaigner mentions the candidate’s name during the event. When more than one candidate shares the stage, or there are posters with their photographs, then the expenses of such rally/meeting are equally divided between all such candidates.

Will Kamal Nath be barred for campaigning now?

By rule, only the Election Commission has the right to decide whether Kamal Nath can campaign further or not. However, since the Supreme Court has put on hold the Election Commission’s order removing Nath as the star campaigner, there is nothing that stops him for campaigning for now.

On October 30, the Election Commission had stripped Kamal Nath of his star campaigner status over a series of controversial remarks, which, the EC said, were “repeated violation of model code of conduct” and “complete disregard” of warnings to him.

The commission order stated that despite being a senior party leader, Kamal Nath had repeatedly “breached ethical and dignified behaviour”.

Earlier, the Election Commission had issued a written warning to the 73-year-old former MP chief minister over his “item” remark for BJP leader Imarti Devi. During a campaign in Dabra last month, Kamal Nath had said the Congress candidate was a “simple person” unlike his rival (Imarti Devi), who was an “item”.


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