NGOs and the Election Commission have joined hands to do a reality check on campaign expenditure of candidates in five states where counting of votes will take place on December 8. The states are Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.
The commission has asked poll officers in these states to put the weekly account submitted by the candidates in the public domain with the help of NGOs. This is to enable voters to judge if the expenditure being shown is correct. The commission allows a maximum expenditure of Rs 10 lakh for an assembly seat, or about Rs 2 per voter.
Candidates are to submit accounts of campaign expenses to the office of the returning officer. Most candidates ensure that they don’t cross the limit.
But there are also unofficial expenses. In most cases, these are three to four times the prescribed limit, with huge amounts spent on alluring voters with gifts, money or liquor. “One-fifth of candidates in the recently concluded Karnataka assembly elections were given money for voting,” said Bhaskar Rao of the Centre for Media Studies. Candidates also spend a lot of money to buy the covert support of confidants of rival parties and keep their campaigners happy.
An insight into how much money goes into elections is available with the government. The recently revealed income tax returns by six national political parties indicate that election expenditure for an assembly seat is three times the prescribed limit.
But commission officials said returning officers don’t have the wherewithal to check the actual expenditure.
The commission has therefore asked election officers to provide details of expenditures to NGOs.
“We and sister organisations, will collect data and inform people about how much candidates are claiming to be spending,” said Anil Bhairwal of the Association for Democratic Reforms.