BJP to  Election Commissioner: Who is footing the tab for Raj’s anti-saffron rallies?

Mumbai: Former election commissioner Neela Satyanarayana has said those rallies which are not in support of the poll candidate cannot be endorsed by the Election Commission. She was speaking about the complaint by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), seeking investigation of the latter’s expenses. The MNS has not fielded a single candidate for the 2019 elections. The Election Commission (EC) is wondering which candidate is footing the bill for Raj’s rallies. Raj had announced his party was not contesting the elections and had made it clear he would campaign only against the BJP and the Shiv Sena.

The EC is in a fix over the rallies being conducted by Raj Thackeray, the MNS chief. When the model code of conduct is in effect, rallies are shown as expenses by the candidate. Thackeray has been conducting rallies through out the state. He has been campaigning against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP president, Amit Shah, and recently, he spoke at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park and in Nanded. Satyanarayana said the BJP has to decide on what grounds it wants to lodge a complaint. “Parties like the MNS, which do not endorse any particular candidate do not come under the ambit of the EC,” she said.

She further explained, “Parties can come to an understanding about sharing the cost of rallies for a political cause. Those leaders not contesting elections can obtain permission form the regional administrative authority to hold a meeting.” The BJP in Maharashtra wrote to the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO) on Saturday, seeking to know which Lok Sabha candidate would incur the cost of MNS president Raj Thackeray’s ongoing political rallies.In a letter to CEO Ashwani Kumar, senior BJP minister Vinod Tawde, on behalf of the Lok Sabha election committee of the party, said Thackeray has been holding political rallies across the state, despite the MNS not contesting the Lok Sabha elections.

“The commission should clarify for whom the rallies are being conducted and which candidate will bear the expenses for his rallies,” Tawde said in the letter.He stated Thackeray’s rallies are aimed at defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and making Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s candidates win the elections.”It can be clearly seen that the rallies are being held for candidates of the Congress-NCP. However, no candidate is showing the expenses for Raj Thackeray’s rallies in their own name. As needed under the commission’s poll expenditure rules, it is not clear from where the spending for the political rallies is sourced,” he stated.

Tawde further said had Thackeray been naming candidates in his rallies, the question of which candidate would bear the responsibility of the expenditure on his rallies, would not have arisen.”However, the rallies are political in nature, clearly aimed at making the Congress-NCP candidates win. Therefore, we expect that the candidate (from a constituency) where Thackeray’s rallies are being held should be made to show these as his poll expenses,” Tawde said.

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