India is called the largest democracy of the world. Elections in India are celebrated like a national festival. But there is a proverb for Indian election that the elections of India are based on the 3Ms i.e. Money, Mind and Muscles.
The total election expenditure in India is increasing in leaps and bounds. “The combined US presidential and congressional election in 2016 cost was around $6.5 billion. The upcoming Lok Sabha election of India is going to be world's most expensive one.
In 1952, the cost was 60 paisa per elector which became Rs. 17 per elector in 2004 and declined to Rs. 12 in 2009.
It is worth to mention that total government expenditure for the first three general elections was around Rs. 10 cr each.
The government expenditure rose to 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 total government expenditure for the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014 at was around Rs. 3,870 crore which was 3 times more than the expenditure incurred for the 15th general election in 2009. It does not include expenditure of political parties.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the cost to the exchequer was Rs. 1,483. This does not include the expenses incurred for security and the amount political parties will spend.
Centre for Media Studies reports that for the general elections of 2014, BJP spent more than Rs. 700 crore for campaigning and publicity.
Details submitted to the Election Commission reveal that BJP had spent Rs. 17.60 billion (Rs 1,760 crore) on fighting elections in the last five years to won 22 state elections.
A candidate is not free to spend as much as he/she likes in the election. The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It would also amount to a corrupt practice under sec 123 (6) of Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.
Let’s have a look on the expenditure limit in the elections;
Limit for Lok Sabha Elections;
The maximum limits of election expenditure vary from State to State. Bigger states of India are allowed to spend more than the smaller states.
A candidate can spend upto Rs.70 lakh, depending on the state they are contesting the Lok Sabha election from. Expenditure limit in the bigger states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka etc. is Rs. 70 lakh.
The expenditure limit in smaller states & UTs like; Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry was kept at Rs. 54 lakhs.
It is worth to mention that the limit for Delhi Lok Sabha election is also Rs. 70 lakh.
Limit for Assembly Elections;
Expenditure limit in the Assembly Elections of the bigger Indian states like, UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, west Bengal and Andhra Pradesh is set to Rs. 28 lakhs while this limit is kept at Rs. 20 lakhs for smaller states like; Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Puducherry.
Main components of the election expenditure are;
a. Expenditure on vehicles during election campaign:-34%
b. Expenditure on Campaigning equipment:- 23%
c. Expenditure on Election Rallies:- 13%
d. Expenditure on electronic and print media:- 7%
e. Expenditure on Banners, hoardings and pamphlets:- 4%
f. Expenditure on field visits:- 3%
Candidates have to keep a separate account and file the election expenses with the Election Commission of India under the law.
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.
While all candidates are required to submit their expenditure statement to the poll panel within 30 days of the completion of the elections.
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.
It is observed that due to higher inflation in the economy the expenditure of elections is increasing in leap and bounds of yearly basis. Now political parties have to do huge campaigning to woo the voters.
Even some candidates have admitted that the EC allows a candidate to spend only Rs. 70 lakh to fight the Lok Sabha elections, but in reality this election costs up to Rs. 2 crore per candidate.
In the conclusion it can be said that the increasing election expenditure made the democracy as a puppet of some rich politicians that is why some honest and poor candidates are unable to fight the elections which is not a healthy practice for the democracy.