When it came to declaring their assets, they didn’t seem to have much; yet expenses incurred by 700 candidates contesting Lok Sabha 2009 polls were much more than their declared assets.
An analysis of candidates by the Association for Democratic Reforms found that the Election Commission (EC) did not bother to find how the candidates with few assets spent loads of money on campaigning.
According to EC rules, a candidate is required to submit an affidavit while filing nomination declaring the assets and any criminal record. After the polls, each candidate has to submit another affidavit declaring the expenses incurred during the 14-day campaign period.
A candidate can spend a maximum of Rs 25 lakh for a Lok Sabha seat campaign. Only four candidates told the EC that their expenditure was more than the stipulated limit.
D.V. Ramana, who contested from Vishakhapatnam on a small regional party ticket, declared zero assets with his nomination papers. While declaring expenditure, he told the returning officer that he had spent Rs 3,50,000 on his campaign.
Similarly, Asif Jeelani, a candidate from Anantnag constituency of Jammu and Kashmir, had zero assets but he was able to spend Rs 6.04 lakh. The highest spending candidate with zero assets in 2009 elections was Anil Shirole, a BJP candidate from Pune. He spent Rs 18.60 lakh on his elections.
“Election rules are violated blatantly,” said Anil Bhairwal, national coordinator of the Association of Democratic Reforms. “Unless the EC provide information on expenditure fast to people such as exercise is of no use. We have to make election laws strong to check money power...” Every fifth candidate failed to submit the expenditure account to the election commission.
“We need a change in law to stop misuse of money power in elections,” a senior EC officer said. “For that, there is a need for a strong political will”.
Many of these candidates did not even win. “Most of these candidates are not serious ... and could have been sponsored by other candidates to cut votes of particular castes ...,” the official added.