Newly-elected MLAs of Himachal Pradesh have declared a meagre average of Rs. 6.77 lakh as poll expenses
Although nobody knows the truth or the actual expenses incurred except for themselves, the newly elected MLAs of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly are very lucid and transparent in their confessions of spending a sum of just Rs 6.77 lakh each, on an average, in the recently held Vidhan Sabha elections.
According to the data compiled by the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms based on the expenditure documents of all the 68 newly-elected MLAs, the average money spent is just 62 per cent of the total expense limit of Rs. 11 lakh.
The party-wise average election expenses shows that the average spending for 36 MLAs of the Congress was Rs 7.12 lakh (65 per cent of the expense limit), for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 26 MLAs was Rs. 6.82 lakh (62 per cent of the limit), for five Independent MLAs was just Rs. 4.77 lakh (43 per cent of the limit) and for one MLA of the Himachal Lokhit Party was Rs. 2.52 lakh (23 per cent of the limit).
The Election Watch analysis shows that no MLA has declared election expenses of more than Rs. 11 lakh and only one MLA (Jagat Singh of Congress from Kinnaur [ST] constituency) has declared expenses of more than Rs. 10 lakh. A total of seven MLAs have declared election expenses of less than Rs. four lakh, which is about 36 per cent of the expense limit set by the election commission.
The maximum expense of about Rs 10 lakhs (or 91 per cent of the expense limit) has been declared by Jagat Singh an INC MLA from Kinnaur (ST) constituency, followed by BJP’s Mahendra Singh from Dharampur constituency with an expense of about Rs. 9.8 lakh (89 per cent of the expense limit) and Col. Inder Singh of the BJP from Sarkaghat constituency with an expense of Rs. 9.5 lakh (87 per cent of the expense limit).
The minimum expense of about Rs. 61,000 (or six per cent of the limit) has been declared by Dr. Rajiv Sahjal of BJP from Kasauli (SC) constituency. He is followed by Kirnesh Jung, an Independent candidate from Paonta Sahib constituency, with election expenses of about Rs. 2.29 lakh (21 per cent of the limit) and Maheshwar Singh of HLP from Kullu constituency with expenses of Rs. 2.52 lakh (23 per cent of the limit). Mr. Maheshwar Singh was an erstwhile ruler of Kullu State and is heading the HLP that contested in 42 seats.
Interestingly, three MLAs have shown that they spent more on election expenses than the total assets they had declared in the affidavits submitted by them to the Election Commission prior to the elections. They are BJP’s Bikram Singh from Bhattiyat constituency (total assets declared: Rs 7.09 lakh; election expenses declared: Rs. 8.44 lakh), Congress’ Yadvinder Goma from Jaisinghpur (SC) constituency (total assets declared: Rs. 5.22 lakh; election expenses declared: Rs. 8.05 lakh) and BJP’s Hans Raj from Churah (SC) constituency (total assets declared: Rs. 7 lakh; election expenses declared: Rs. 7.07 lakh).
Out of all the 68 MLAs analysed, nine have declared that they have not spent any amount on public meetings or processions and five others, including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, have declared that they have spent less than Rs. 10,000 on public meetings and processions during the elections.
Eight MLAs, including Mr. Virbhadra Singh and Congress media in-charge Mukesh Agnihotri, have declared that they have not spent any amount at all on campaigning through electronic or print media. This category was identified by the Election Commission to combat the practice of “paid news” and “surrogate advertisements” that many candidates resort to. Fourteen other MLAs have declared that they have spent less than Rs. 10,000 on campaigning through electronic or print media.
Twenty MLAs, including State BJP President Satpal Satti and senior Congress leader G.S. Bali, have declared that they have spent zero on campaign workers and four other MLAs have declared that they have spent less than Rs 10,000 on campaign workers. Five of the MLAs, including Mr. Virbhadra Singh, have declared that they have spent less than Rs. 70,000 on the use of vehicles.
Given the surprisingly austere spending on part of the people’s representatives in the hill-State, a number of political observers have wondered if the election expense limit in Himachal Pradesh be reduced to Rs. 7 lakh per MLA in the coming elections.