Escalating election expenses is antithetical to democracy. A look at how parties raised and spent funds in the seven state assembly elections of 2012
Vaishali Rawat and Hemant Singh | April 25, 2017
India Today conducted a cash-for-vote sting operation in the recent assembly polls which revealed how candidates were blatantly violating election commission (EC) guidelines by bribing voters. It also exposed large amounts of money being spent in campaigning as some leaders admitted to spending several crores, while the EC limit is Rs 20-28 lakh per candidate. This picks holes in the government’s claims of cleaning electoral funding through demonetisation and assorted budgetary provisions.
Gujarat witnessed the most expensive election, where political parties spent Rs 197.58 crore, followed by Uttar Pradesh (Rs 74.68 crore) and Punjab (Rs 45.81 crore). The BJP incurred its highest expenditure in Gujarat, which was 133 percent higher than the funds it had collected through its state unit there. This proves how much the BJP values electoral victory in Gujarat given also the fact that it has collected the highest donations from there.
The supreme court has, in many of its judgments, observed that the current legal provisions are not sufficient to hold political parties accountable for the funds collected and the expenditure incurred during elections. It voices concerns that elections are now being contested on the might of monies which may have been obtained from illegal sources, including of the people and the corporates having vested interests, thus jeopardising the fairness of the electoral process.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi high court requesting it to issue directions for the implementation of the 170th Law Commission’s report which has recommendations regarding monitoring and regulation of expenditure by political parties.
In the same petition, ADR proposed three other recommendations: introduction of a ceiling on election expenditure incurred by political parties, on and during elections; direction to political parties to submit election expenditure statements one year prior to the date of announcements of elections (both Lok Sabha and assembly elections); and increase the frequency of submission of expenditure statements during the election period – once a month before declaration of elections and at least once a week during the election period.
Rawat and Singh are researchers with the Association for Democratic Reforms.
(The article appears in the April 16-30, 2017 issue of Governance Now)
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