KATHMANDU, Dec 18: Lal Babu Pandit, the CPN-UML leader who was recently elected to parliament from Morang-6, has wound up all his poll campaign activities, spending only about half the amount that the Election Commission (EC) allows per candidate.
Election law allows a candidate for parliament poll campaign expenditures not exceeding Rs 2.5 million. Pandit, who is known for his clean image and austerity while in government, limited his poll expenditure to 1.3 million, according to a letter submitted to the District Election Office, Morang.
Of the total expenditure, Pandit spent Rs 280,615 for the purchase of promotional materials, Rs 240,000 hiring two vehicles, Rs 208,063 to mobilize party cadres, and Rs 187,000 for publicity and advertising.
Likewise, he spent Rs 120,475 for running his campaign office, Rs 98,550 on fuel, Rs 83,000 for miscellaneous expenses, Rs 34,460 for transportation, and finally Rs 1,500 for the purchase of voter rolls.
Poll observers say monied candidates spend two or three times more than the ceiling set by the election body. Extravagant spending has created the impression that candidates with little money cannot win elections. Pandit's victory has proved this wrong.
“The public's trust and the public's support are the most important assets for winning elections,” Pandit told Republica. “Other candidates rob their own people to win elections and continue robbing them after winning. However, they do not win the respect of the people,” he added.
Many Nepalis living and working abroad supported Pandit financially in the recent parliamentary elections. He received funds from Nepalis living in Australia, Korea and the Gulf countries.
Radhika Pokharel in Australia contributed Rs 600,000 to Pandit's campaign. Likewise, Nepalis living in Korea provided Rs 150,000 while fellow countrymen in the Gulf sent Rs 60,000, Pandit said. Impressed by Pandit's efforts to discourage Nepalis going aboard and restrict those with permanent residency in the US, UK and Canada from government positions, many migrant workers supported his poll bid.
“Most of the funds were raised at local level through my own initiative. I was personally able to collect about Rs 150,000 from loans and small savings,” he added.
In the polls, Pandit defeated Shekhar Koirala, senior leader and general secretary of the ruling Nepali Congress, by a narrow margin of 675 votes. While Pandit secured 33,941 votes, Koirala received 33,266.
“Popular leaders like Rup Chandra Bista and Madan Bhandari also won elections with people's trust rather than money. I headed into this election with this symbolic message and I succeeded,” he further said.