Big spenders wanted hike in expense limit but their accounts don’t justify it
Ashish Mehta | March 6, 2014
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 percent of the expense limit. In Delhi, MLAs declared an average expenditure of about 51% of the expense limit, in Chhattisgarh 53%, in Madhya Pradesh 48%, in Rajasthan 46%, and in Mizoram 55% 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 Rs70 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% 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%) have declared election expenses of less than 50% 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% of the expense limit.
Election expenses funded by political parties: 317 MPs (73%) declared that in the expenditure incurred by them, none of it was funded by the political party which fielded him/her. 120 MPs (27%)declared that a part of their election expenditure was funded by the political party and out of these, 15 MPs (3%)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% of their average election expenditure). 30 MPs from INC have declared an average funding from the political party of Rs 5.61 lakh (36% of their average election expenditure).
Expenditure more than the expense limit: Two MPs declared election expenditure more than the prescribed expense limit. Premdas of SP from Etawah Constituency, Uttar Pradesh declared an election expenditure of Rs 57.39 lakh (230% of the expense limit) and Akhilesh Yadav of SP from Kannauj constituency, Uttar Pradesh, with expenses of Rs 26.73 lakh (107% of expense limit).
State-wise average election expenses: The highest average election expenditure declared in a state isTripura (2 Lok Sabha constituencies analysed) with an average election expenditure of Rs 18.79 lakh (75% of the expense limit) followed by Jharkhand (7 Lok Sabha constituencies analysed) with an average election expenditure of Rs 18.73 lakh (75% of expense limit), Uttarakhand (5 Lok Sabha constituencies analysed) with an average election expenditure of Rs 18.49 lakh (74% of expense limit) and Assam (14 Lok Sabha constituencies analysed) with an average election expenditure of Rs 17.77 lakh (71% of expense limit).
Party-wise average election expenses: The average spending for 161 MPs of the Congress (INC) is Rs 14.38 lakh (59% of the average expense limit), for 91 MPs of BJP is Rs 14.43 lakh (59% of the average expense limit), for 21 MPs of SP Rs 19.48 lakh (78% of average expense limit) and Rs 14.72 lakh (59% of average expense limit) for 19 BSP MPs.
Top 3 MPs with highest election expenses: The maximum expense of about Rs 57.39 lakh (230% of expense limit) was declared by Premdas of SP from Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, followed byAkhilesh Yadav of SP from Kannauj, UP, with an expense of Rs 26.73 lakh (107% of expense limit) and Yashbanta Narayan Singh Laguri of BJD from Keonjhar, Odisha, with an expense of Rs 24.97 lakh (or 100% of the expense limit)
MPs with lowest election expenses: The minimum expense of about Rs 1.31 lakh (or 5% of expense limit) has been declared by CM Chang of NPF from Nagaland constituency. He is followed by Ravneet Singh of INC from Anandpur Sahib constituency, Punjab, with election expenses of about Rs 1.75 lakh (or 7% of expense limit) and Muhammed Hamdulla Sayeed A.B. of INC from Lakshwadeep constituency with expenses of Rs 2.02 lakh (or 20% of the expense limit).
Expense on public meetings and processions: Of 437 MPs analysed, 33 (8%) MPs have declared that they have not spent ANY amount on public meetings, processions etc.
Expense on campaigning through electronic/print media: 123 (28%) MPs have declared that they have not spent ANY amount on campaigning through electronic/print media.
Expense on campaign workers: 418 (96%) MPs have declared that they have not spent ANY amount on campaign workers.
Expense on vehicles used: 22 (5%) MPs have declared that they have not spent ANY amount on vehicles used.
Expense on campaign materials and erection of gates, arches, banners etc.: 21 (5%) MPs have declared that they have not spent ANY amount on campaign materials and erection of gates, arches, banners etc.
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