The government cleared a proposal of the Election Commission recently to raise the expenditure limits for Lok Sabha elections from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 70 lakh for each Lok Sabha constituency in bigger states and from Rs 22 lakh to Rs 54 lakh in smaller states.
The Government also cleared the proposal to raise expenditure limits for assembly elections, with a maximum of Rs 28 lakh and a minimum of Rs 20 lakh in North Eastern and hill states.
While this move was welcomed by the political parties, the following report which analyses the expenditure statements declared by the MPs in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2009, shows that on an average the MPs declared an election expenditure of Rs. 14.62 Lakhs i.e. about 59% of the average expense limit in 2009.
Even in the recent five assembly elections, an analysis of the expenditure statements of the MLAs in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh shows that on an average, MLAs declare an expenditure that is far lower than the limit set, at 50% of the expense limit. In Delhi, MLAs declared an average expenditure of about 51% of the expense limit, in Chhattisgarh 53%, in Madhya Pradesh 48%, in Rajasthan 46% and in Mizoram 55%.
According to Professor Trilochan Sastry (Founder, Association for Democratic Reforms), "Raising the ceiling does not address the real issues. First, we need a level playing ground so that any public minded citizen with a desire for public service should be able to contest elections and not be at a disadvantage. Raising the ceiling has no impact on that."
"Second, we need more transparency in the funding and source of funding, along with penalties for not being transparent. This is also not addressed. Third, we need penalties for crossing the new limit of Rs.70 lakhs. This is also not taken care of. Finally, everyone knows about the huge amount of black money in elections. Gopinath Munde said he spent more than Rs. 8 crores. We need to curb this blatant misuse of black money in elections. In summary, none of the major concerns are addressed by the Cabinet decision to raise the ceiling," he added.
The remaining expenditure statements of the rest of the MPs was not analysed due to the unavailability of the statements at the time of the making of this report.
These election expense documents include details of expenses on public meeting and processions, campaigning through electronic and print media, expense on campaign workers, expense on vehicles used and expense on campaign materials.