CEO bans use of helicopters, official cars for campaigning by Ministers

DMs empowered to seize vehicles
*Expenditure by leaders not to be included in candidates’ account

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Nov 20: In significant measures aimed at giving level-playing field to political parties and Independent candidates in the District Development Council (DDC), Panchayats and Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir, State Election Commission (SEC) has imposed ban on use of official vehicles including helicopters and cars for campaigning, electioneering and election related travel including by the Ministers of the Central Government.
However, the SEC and the CEO, in separate orders, have exempted the expenditure incurred on travel by the leaders of a political party for election campaigning from expenditure limit of the candidate.
An order issued by the Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Anil Salgotra said there shall be total and absolute ban on use of official vehicles for campaigning, electioneering or election related travel including helicopters, aircrafts, car, jeeps, automobiles, boats, hovercrafts etc belonging to the Central Government, UT Administration and Public Sector Undertakings/Boards etc.
The CEO has, however, exempted the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and other political personalities from the purview of restrictions, who might in view of extremist and terrorist activities and threat to their lives, require security of a high order and whose security requirements are governed by any statutory provisions made by the Parliament or the State/UT Legislature but brought Ministers of the Union Government in the ambit of ban on use of official vehicles.
“The district administration will keep a close watch to find out if any official vehicle belonging to any Authority is being used for electioneering. In case it is being used, the District Magistrate will requisition such vehicles after following due procedure and will not release them till completion of election process,” the CEO’s order said.
He has further directed that cars/vehicles will not be allowed to move in convoys of more than five vehicles excluding the security vehicles.
“All bigger convoys will be broken up even if they are carrying any Minister of Central Government or any other person. This will, however, be subject to any security instructions issued in respect of such individuals,” the order read and said the vehicles moving in excess of the convoy will not be allowed to be used further by the local administration till the election process is completed.
As far as the star campaigners are concerned, the permission for mode of road transport will be issued centrally by the Chief Electoral Officer irrespective of whether the same vehicle is to be used by any leader for election campaigning throughout the Union Territory or different vehicles are to be used by such party leaders in different areas. The permit will be issued against the name of the star campaigner.
“At the district level, on receipt of a request from a recognized political party, the Deputy Commissioner would issue permit for one vehicle to be used by the district level office bearer of a recognized party (other than the star campaigner) for their visit to multiple constituencies within the district for electioneering,” the order said.
On the day of polling, the CEO doesn’t intend to completely ban all vehicular traffic as it will cause harassment to the public and has, therefore, allowed use of private vehicles not connected with elections and those which are being used by the owners with their families for reaching polling booth to exercise their franchise, vehicles used for essential services like hospital Vans, ambulances, milk, water tanker, electricity emergency vans, police on duty, officers on election duty, public transport carriages like buses plying between fixed terminal and fixed routes, taxis, three wheelers etc going to Airports, Railway Stations, vehicles being used by the Government officers and private vehicles transporting sick or disabled persons.
Meanwhile, SEC KK Sharma has ordered that the expenditure on travel incurred by leaders of a political party for propagating programmes of that party will not be treated as expenditure incurred by the candidate of that political party for the purpose of Rs 5 lakh fixed for the candidates in the DDC elections.
“Maximum number of leaders of a political party for the DDC elections 2020 will be 40 in case of recognized political parties and 10 in case of registered unrecognized political parties. However, list of such names will have to be submitted by the political party to the Election Authority,” an order issued by Sharma said.
As per the order, a political party can nominate only those persons who are members of that party as its leaders. Substitution of a name in the list will be permitted only where any of the persons mentioned in the list dies or ceases to be member of that political party.
CEO Hirdesh Kumar has also ordered that expenditure on travel incurred by leaders of political parties for by-elections to the Municipal Bodies for election campaign shall not be treated as expenditure in connection with the election incurred/authorized by a candidate of that political party for the purpose of prescribed expenditure limits.
The CEO has prescribed Rs 1.5 lakh limit for by-elections to Municipal Corporations, Rs 1 lakh for Municipal Councils and Rs 50,000 for Municipal Committees in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, in case of Municipal by-polls, the maximum number of political leaders has been capped at 20 for recognized political parties and 10 for registered unrecognized political parties.