Millennium Post

Fighting election is a costlier business

It’s billed as the biggest elections the world has ever seen. It might as well turn out to be the costliest slugfest the world has ever seen. Just ahead of the election announcement, the government cleared a proposal from the election commission to raise the expenditure limits for Lok Sabha elections.

In these times of high inflation, the move allows candidates with deep pockets to spend more on enticing voters, but it also makes fighting elections a more difficult exercise for those with modest means. Ironically, if the expenditure statements filed by our MPs are anything to go by, the limit should have been lowered, not hiked.

The expense limit, for the record, goes up from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 70 lakh for each constituency in larger states like Uttar Pradesh, and from Rs 22 lakh to Rs 54 lakh for smaller states like Goa, on par with hilly and northeastern states. The figures for assembly elections are hiked to
Rs 28 lakh and Rs 20 lakh for the two categories. This should give some leeway to those candidates and parties for whom it is indeed difficult to write the account statement within the prescribed limit after spending huge amount of funding from anonymous – or, rather, well known – sources (also known as black money) on buying votes or otherwise luring voters. So, the move was welcomed by political parties in unison.

There, however, is a glitch. As we have argued before [One Kejriwal move Raje & Co will not copy-cat], the account statements filed by candidates are on average are far below the limit.

Gopinath Munde of the BJP last year committed a gaffe when he said in public that the limit was too low and he had to spend something like Rs 8 crore on his election in 2009 – but his affidavit puts the figure at only Rs 19.32 lakh, which is less than half the then limit.

The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has again analysed expense statements filed by winning candidates of the 2009 elections [see attachment for the full report]. It has found that on average the MPs declared an election expenditure of Rs 14.62 lakh – that is, 59 percent of the average expense limit in 2009.

Inflation since 2009, by the way, is not a factor here. Look at the figures for the assembly elections held barely three months ago. ADR’s analysis of the expenditure statements of the MLAs in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh shows that on average, MLAs declare an expenditure that is 50 per cent of the expense limit. In Delhi, MLAs declared an average expenditure of about 51 per cent of the expense limit, in Chhattisgarh 53 per cent, in Madhya Pradesh 48 per cent, in Rajasthan 46 per cent, and in Mizoram 55 per cent of the limit. ADR founder Trilochan Sastry says in a statement, ‘Raising the ceiling does not address the real issues. First, we need a level playing ground so that any public-minded citizen with a desire for public service should be able to contest elections and not be at a disadvantage. Raising the ceiling has no impact on that. ‘Second, we need more transparency in the funding and source of funding, along with penalties for not being transparent. This is also not addressed. ‘Third, we need penalties for crossing the new limit of Rs 70 lakh. This is also not taken care of.

‘Finally, everyone knows about the huge amount of black money in elections. Gopinath Munde said he spent more than Rs 8 crore. We need to curb this blatant misuse of black money in elections. In summary, none of the major concerns are addressed by the Cabinet decision to raise the ceiling.’

Summary and highlights of election expenses of MPs from the Lok Sabha 2009 elections Less than 50 per cent of the limit: Candidates have constantly claimed that the election expenditure limit set is very low. However, based on the election expense declarations of 437 MPs analysed from Lok Sabha, 2009 to the ECI, 129 MPs (30 per cent) have declared election expenses of less than 50 per cent of the expense limit in their constituency.

Average election expenses: Based on the election expense declarations of 437 MPs from Lok Sabha 2009 to the ECI, the average amount of money spent by them in the elections is only about Rs 14.62 Lakhs, which is 59 per cent of the expense limit. Election expenses funded by political parties: 317 MPs (73 per cent) declared that in the expenditure incurred by them, none of it was funded by the political party which fielded him/her. 120 MPs (27 per cent)declared that a part of their election expenditure was funded by the political party and out of these, 15 MPs (three per cent)declared that all of their expenditure was funded by the political party which fielded him/her.

Party-wise election expenses funded by political parties: Among the MPs who were funded (partially or fully) by political parties, 35 MPs from BJP had declared an average funding from the political party of Rs 5.08 lakh (36 per cent of their average election expenditure).

By arrangement with Governance Now
Next Story
Share it