Lok Sabha election 2019: How much can a candidate spend and on what
Elections are an expensive affair with political parties spending crores of rupees towards campaigning.
The Election Commission of India imposes limits on the expenditure incurred by a candidate, but not political parties, on their election campaign.
A US-based election expert has said, according to news agency PTI, that the upcoming general elections will be the most expensive in the history of India and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic country.
“The combined US presidential and congressional elections in 2016 cost $6.5 billion. If the 2014 Lok Sabha elections cost an estimated $5 billion, there is little doubt the 2019 election will easily surpass that - making India’s elections the world’s most expensive,” Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank said.
“The uncertainty associated with the coming election-polls suggest a narrowing gap between the BJP and the opposition - only provides more fodder for an arms race in spending,” he said.
The expenditure limit
A candidate can spend between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state they are contesting the Lok Sabha election from. For all states, except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, a candidate can spend a maximum of Rs 70 lakh on canvassing. The cap for Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim is Rs 54 lakh. And, it is Rs 70 lakh for Delhi and Rs 54 lakh for other Union territories.
For the assembly elections, the ceiling is between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 28 lakh.
This includes the money spent by a political party or a supporter towards the candidate’s campaign. But, expenses incurred either by a party or the leader of a party for propagating the party’s programme are not covered.
Candidates have to keep a separate account and file the election expenses with the poll watchdog under the law. An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the cap can lead to disqualification for up to three years under Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
All registered political parties have to submit a statement of their election expenditure to the election commission within 90 days of the completion of the Lok Sabha elections. And all candidates are required to submit their expenditure statement to the poll panel within 30 days of the completion of the elections.
How much did the various Lok Sabha elections cost?
The election commission had compiled provisional expenditure figures of the various Lok Sabha elections till date.
The total expenditure was equal to or less than Rs 10 crore for each of the first three general elections. The expenditure was less than Rs 100 crore until the eighth general election in 1984-85. It crossed Rs 500 crore for the first time during the 11th general election in 1996 and went beyond Rs 1,000 crore during the 14th general election in 2004.
The expenditure for the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014 at Rs 3,870 crore was three times more than the expenditure incurred for the 15th general election in 2009.
Which party spent how much?
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) analysed the difference in the declarations made by political parties and their MPs on the amount granted and received as part of election expenditure during the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
According to ADR, of the total of 543 MPs, complete information was available for 539 lawmakers. Out of the remaining four MPs, three were Independent candidates and one MP, Gopinathrao Munde of the BJP died and his expenditure statement was not available on the commission’s website.
Out of the 342 MPs from national parties, 263 MPs said they received Rs 7,559.82 lakh from their parties whereas the national parties said that Rs 5,523.53 lakh was given to only 175 MPs.
Of the regional parties, 38 MPs from 15 different parties either declared they received nothing or mentioned various amounts as received from their respective parties which do not match with the expenditure statements submitted by the parties.
BJP’s lawmaker Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah had declared that she had received no lump-sum amount from her party whereas the Bharatiya Janata Party had declared that Rs 15 lakh was given to her for the Lok Sabha election.
On the other hand, 89 MPs declared the got Rs 17.43 crore, including 71 MPs from the BJP, 11 from the Congress, five from CPI(M) and one each from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and CPI. But their names were missing from the list of candidates to whom the lump-sum amount was given by their parties.