Rules around star campaigners

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The Delhi Chief Minister's wife has been appointed a “star campaigner” for his political party's Gujarat campaign.

Star campaigners:

  • Star campaigners are usually the top leaders of a political party but can include other celebrities as well.
  • These persons have to be members of the political party that appoints them.

Legal provisions regarding star campaigners:

  • Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) provides for law relating to expenditure incurred by ‘leaders of a political party’.
    • These ‘leaders of a political party’ are popularly known as ‘star campaigners’.
  • The RP Act provides that a recognised political party (national or State) can appoint a maximum of 40 star campaigners, while a registered unrecognised political party can appoint up to 20.
    • These names are to be communicated to the Election Commission (EC) and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the States as applicable within seven days from the date of notification of such election.
    • In the case of a multi-phase election, a political party can submit a separate list of star campaigners for different phases.
      • However, it has been noticed that all major parties provide a single list for a state that is applicable for all phases.

Benefit of having a star campaigner:

  • Expenditure exemption:
    • The RP Act provides that expenditure incurred by the ‘leaders of a political party’ on account of travel by air or any other means of transport for campaigning for their political party shall not be deemed to be part of the election expenditure of a candidate of such party.
      • The election expenditure limit for candidates is ₹95 lakh per Lok Sabha constituency in larger States and ₹75 lakh in smaller States.
    • Hence, these star campaigners would be vote-fetchers for candidates set up by respective parties without affecting their expenditure limit.
  • Conditions for exemption:
    • The exemption is applicable only if the star campaigners limit themselves to general campaigning for the party.
    • If, in any rally/meeting organised, the star campaigner seeks votes in the name of the contesting candidate(s) or shares the dais with them, then the rally/meeting expense shall be apportioned to the election expenditure of such candidate(s).
    • If the star campaigner incurs boarding/lodging expenses while campaigning for any candidate(s), it shall be included in the expenditure account of such candidate(s) irrespective of whether it is paid for by the candidate(s).
    • If any candidate(s) travel with the star campaigner, then 50% of the travel expenditure of the star campaigner shall also be apportioned to such candidate(s).

Issues related to the conduct of star campaigners:

  • Violation of Model Code of Conduct:
    • The star campaigners of all parties have been guilty of using inappropriate and abusive words against leaders of other political parties — appealing to the caste/communal feelings of electors and making unsubstantiated allegations.
      • In 2020, during the Delhi Assembly election campaign, the EC ordered the removal of two ruling party star campaigners for making inflammatory utterances that violated the Model Code of Conduct.
      • In another instance in 2020, during the campaign for bye-elections to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the Supreme Court stayed the order of the EC revoking the star campaigner status of a senior leader of the opposition party for making a derogatory statement against a woman candidate of the ruling party. The court observed that the EC does not have any such powers.
  • Assessment of campaign expenditure:
    • Assessment of expenditures incurred for the rally/meeting of such star campaigners is always significantly lower than the actual expenditure.
      • This may be due to the rate card used by the EC not reflecting current market rates for various items. This results in lower apportionment of expenditure to contesting candidates.

Way forward:

  • The RP Act stipulates that political parties can appoint or revoke the appointment of star campaigners. As per Article 324 of the Constitution, the EC is the highest authority that has been vested with the powers of superintendence and control of elections.
    • Hence, the law may be amended to authorise the EC to revoke the ‘star campaigner’ status in case of any serious violation of the Model Code of Conduct, thereby depriving the party candidates of expenditure relief for their campaigns.
      • This would hopefully instill a sense of responsibility among them and ensure that campaigns maintain the necessary decorum and restraint.
  • The assessment and apportionment of rally/meeting expenses where star campaigners’ campaign for a particular candidate(s) should be made more robust.


The Election Commission has issued an advisory to all political parties, urging them to maintain decorum and restraint during campaigning and raise the election discourse level to focus on issues. The commission has also warned star campaigners to avoid any violation of conduct. Despite these measures, there remain concerns about the behaviour of star campaigners during elections. Proposed solutions could help address these challenges and promote fair and ethical campaigning practices.

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