Why clamor for increasing poll expense cap when MPs spent just half of it

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33 per cent of the 537 Members of the Parliament spent less than 50 per cent of the permissible limit of their poll funds.
If you were thinking that money was spilled like water in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, then you are badly mistaken. As per the data submitted to the Election Commission, 33 per cent of the 537 Members of the Parliament spent less than 50 per cent of the permissible limit of their poll funds.

Political parties and leaders might be demanding for increasing the bar on poll expense but nearly one-third of the current lawmakers in the Parliament spending less than half of their limits raises a pertinent question is there a need for the EC to raise the expense cap. MPs have declared an average expenditure of Rs 40.33 lakh in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

This has been reported by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in its latest analysis based on poll expenses declared by MPs to the Election Commission.

Who spent the most, who spent the least

  • Congress's Gourav Gogoi from Kaliabor constituency in Assam with maximum expense of about Rs 82.40 lakh topped the list. That's Rs 12.40 lakh more than the expense limit of Rs 70 lakh.
  • Gogoi was followed by Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava of BJP from Gujarat's Bharuch constituency who spent Rs 67.31 lakh. Vasava is the MoS in the tribal affairs ministry.
  • Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy from Dum Dum constituency in West Bengal attained third position after spending Rs 65.53 lakh.
  • With a total expenditure of just Rs 39,369 Shyama Charan Gupta of BJP from Allahabad constituency was at the bottom of the tally.
  • Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju of the TDP, was second last in the list, whose total election expenditure was Rs 4.10 lakh.
  • Just before Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission had raised the expenditure limits for each Lok Sabha constituency from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 70 lakh for bigger states and from Rs 22 lakh to Rs 54 lakh for smaller states.
  • With an average expenditure of Rs 50.32 lakh, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MPs made their party top the table of political parties in terms of highest expenditures.
  • The BJP spent an average of Rs 41.81 lakh on average per candidate while Congress spent on average Rs 41.63 lakh on its contestants.

Interestingly, as many as 16 MPs spent more than their total assets declared during the polls. Shrikant Eknath Shinde of Shiv Sena from Kalyan Constituency, Maharashtra had declared total assets of Rs 9.98 lakh at the time of filing of nomination papers. However he has declared election expenses of Rs. 51.34 lakh.

Similarly, BJP's Kamakhya Prasad Tasa from Assam's Jorhat constituency, declared total assets of Rs 16.94 lakh during the elections, however he has declared to have spent Rs 58.21 lakh on poll campaigning.

Some other interesting figures

  • A total of Rs. 299 crores worth of cash was seized across the country during the Lok Sabha 2014 elections and 16 states had reported to have seized more than Rs. 1 crore, said the ADR report.
  • Other than that, 1.61 crore litres of liquor, 1707 crore mg of drugs and 57,335 illegal arms and ammunition were seized across the country.

Surely, there were no takers for these illegal items or money seized by the agencies during the poll season.

Is there a need to raise the poll expense cap?

If one goes with these figures he/she can easily understand that there is actually not a need for the EC to raise its ceiling on poll spending as most of the parliamentarians didn't shell out more than 50 per cent of their poll funds. But, these figures are surprising as everybody was speculating that money will flow like anything in this most important election in India's history. There is another possibility that the MPs still continue to declare election expenditure which is significantly lower than their actual expenditure.

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