Maharashtra polls: Election department lowers food rates for party workers

Experts credit lower rates of inflation for the decrease in food rates, while the district election department claims its tender process is responsible for the cut in prices

It looks like the decreasing inflation rate in the past few months is now also reflected in the food rate cards prepared by the District Election Department for the approaching state assembly polls.

The rate card is prepared by the department ahead of every election for meals provided to party workers by the election candidates. Candidates are allowed to distribute vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals - breakfast items including poha, upma, vada pav, sabudana khichadi, food packets and tea or coffee. The rates are used to calculate part of the candidates’ campaign expenditure.

Compared to the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, the rates are lower this time round. For instance, the rate for vada pav, a common snack for campaign workers, is now Rs 10, compared to Rs 12 during the LS election.

Similarly, the rate for tea has also been reduced by one rupee, to Rs 5. According to Advocate Madhavi Nigade, an election analyst, the decreasing prices of essential commodities is the reason behind the reduced rates. “During the Lok Sabha election, the price of onions had shot up, so the election department fixed the rate of vada pav at Rs 12. However, as the prices of onions and potatoes have fallen, they didn’t have any option but to reduce the rates for food items,” she said.

She added that the rates of vehicles must also be reduced due to the reduction in petrol and diesel prices. However, officials in election department said the credit for the lower rates lay elsewhere. “During Lok Sabha elections, we asked the candidates to submit the estimated cost of breakfast they had provided to volunteers during their campaign. However, to our surprise, one of the candidates submitted the estimated cost of idli-chutney as Rs 120 per person,” said Deputy Election Officer Seema Holkar.

She added that this was the reason that the department decided to fix the expenditure rates through a tender process. “So far, no one has objected to the new rate list,” Holkar said.

On the other hand, the rate of limitation of expenditure on political hoardings and firecrackers has been increased almost two times, compared to the rates fixed during LS polls. “We conducted a market survey and also asked the district Public Works Department to submit their estimates to fix the final rates for hoardings. The procedure of e-tender was also followed,” said District Election Officer, Samiksha Chandrakar.

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