November 2, 2020
The star campaigner is back in the news courtesy a row over Congress leader Kamal Nath’s remarks on a woman candidate in Madhya Pradesh Assembly bypolls. The Election Commission revoked his star campaigner status last week. Today, the Supreme Court stayed the Election Commission’s order observing the poll body “has no power” to decide who is a star campaigner.
There is no law that defines who is a star campaigner. It is a status that political parties contesting an election give to certain big names who the parties feel have more vote-fetching ability in the polls than others.
So, who is a star campaigner then?
A star campaigner is a celebrity vote seeker in an election for a party. This person can be a politician or even a film star. 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.
How many star campaigners can be there?
Since political parties appoint star campaigners, the Election Commission has issued guidelines the Model Code of Conduct regulating poll campaign by them.
A ‘recognised’ party declared as such by the Election Commission — can nominate a maximum of 40 star campaigners.
An unrecognised political party can nominate a maximum of 20 star campaigners.
Why political parties need a star campaigner?
It has a lot to do with poll expenditure. 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.
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 terms and conditions apply.
For an individual candidate to get a relief from campaign expenditure, the star campaigner has to limit oneself to general campaigning for the party.
If she/he shares stage with a candidate, the entire campaign cost except expenditure incurred on travelling will added to the candidate’s election expenses. This applies even if the star campaigner seeks vote for the candidate taking his or her name.
If more than one candidates share the stage with the star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on the rally will be shared equally by the contestants.
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.
When PM is the star campaigner?
The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is 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 per cent of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.