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?”
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.
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”.