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India's central bank, poll panel spar over enhancing cash withdrawal limit for election candidates

The Election Commission had told RBI it had been apprised of the problems candidates were facing due to withdrawal limits imposed post demonetisation. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Jan 29, 2017, 12.00 PM (IST)

India's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Sunday rejected the Election Commission's request to enhance the weekly cash-withdrawal limit for candidates contesting the upcoming elections in five states, prompting an angry reaction from the poll panel.

The Election Commission had written to the RBI on Wednesday, asking it to increase the weekly withdrawal limit for candidates contesting the assembly elections to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 24,000 per week. It had asked for the facility to be extended till March 11, the day of counting. The EC wrote another letter to the RBI on Friday (January 28), expressing its concern at the 'çursory manner' in which the central bank was dealing with the issue.

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Candidates are bound to open an election account for meeting poll-related expenditure which is monitored by the poll panel.

But RBI said that it was not possible for it to hike the limit at this stage.

An apparently peeved Commission has now written back to RBI Governor Urjit Patel expressing "serious concern about the cursory manner in which the issue has been dealt with".

"...(It) appears that the RBI has not realised the gravity of the situation...It is reiterated that it is the constitutional mandate of the Commission to conduct free and fair elections and to provide level-playing field to all candidates...In order to facilitate proper conduct of elections, it is imperative that directions issued by the Commission are complied with," the poll panel said.

It urged the central bank to reconsider the proposal.

The Commission had told RBI Governor Urjit Patel that it has been apprised of the problems candidates were facing due to withdrawal limits imposed after demonetisation, PTI had reported. 

The poll panel said with a weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000, a candidate would be able to withdraw Rs 96,000 in cash during the election process which lasts for three to four weeks. 

It reminded the Central bank that as per law, candidates contesting assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab can spend Rs 28 lakh for electioneering. The limit in Goa and Manipur is Rs 20 lakh. 

(WION with inputs from PTI)

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