With assets of Rs 170 crore, Congress leader Rana Gurjit Singh was the richest among all 1,145 candidates in the Punjab assembly polls held in February. And he appears to be a wise spender! Now the power minister, Gurjit spent only Rs 8.36 lakh — 30% of the limit of Rs 28 lakh set by the Election Commission of India — on his campaign. That is the least among all ministers.

This was revealed on Friday after data-gathering by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) from details submitted to the EC. No candidate met the upper limit.

The record of being the highest spender among all 117 candidates who became MLAs goes to Gurpreet Singh GP, a first-time legislator of the Congress from Bassi Pathana, at Rs 26.89 lakh. He had declared assets of Rs 45 lakh and his expenditure was 96% of the limit.

In contrast, Harpartap Singh Ajnala, also of the Congress, had declared 10 times more assets than GP, at Rs 4.3 core, but he spent the minimum among all eventual winners — Rs 4 lakh.

Among those who became minister, Charanjit Singh Channi spent the highest at Rs 26.83 lakh, Rs 6,000 less than what GP spent. He had declared assets of Rs 14.47 crore. Next among ministers is Manpreet Singh Badal at Rs 24.67 lakh, followed by Razia Sultana at Rs 24.48 lakh. The low spenders among ministers are Aruna Chaudhary at Rs 12.99 lakh, followed by Navjot Singh Sidhu at Rs 14.52 lakh. Sidhu had declared assets of Rs 45.91 crore.

Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh spent Rs 15.17 lakh (54% of the limit); he had declared assets of Rs 86.33 crore. Sadhu Singh Dharamsot spent Rs 17.15 lakh (61%), Brahm Mohinda Rs 16.74 lakh (60%) and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa Rs 14.65 lakh (52%).

Among parties whose candidates won, Bains brothers Simarjeet and Balwinder of the Lok Insaaf Party, an ally of Aam Aadmi Party, had the highest average at Rs 20 lakh. Average expenditure of MLAs of all other parties — Congress, SAD and BJP — was close to Rs 15 lakh.

The Badals — former CM Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Bikram Singh Majithia — too spent relatively little, at Rs 13.13 lakh (47%), Rs 10.77 lakh (38%) and Rs 12.62 lakh (45%), respectively. 

Contrast in AAP

Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who is now the AAP’s chief whip in the assembly, had declared the second highest assets (Rs 52.66 crore) among those eventually elected MLAs of his party. But he made the least expenditure (Rs 8.9 lakh) among them. Yet, he told HT, “I am sure what candidates declare is much less than what they actually spend. Imposing restrictions is just a farce because the EC is toothless. The electoral process needs radical cleansing.”

AAP’s Pirmal Singh Dhaula presents another contrast — he declared assets of Rs 3 lakh, but spent Rs 21.44 lakh on his campaign. Baljinder Kaur declared Rs 3.65 lakh in assets but spent Rs 11.99 lakh.

Aman Arora, who was on top among AAP’s eventual MLAs in terms of assets (Rs 65.88 crore) spent Rs 14.98 lakh, while Kultar Singh, Baldev Singh, Jagdev Singh, Amarjit Singh and Rupinder Kaur Ruby all spent more than Arora. HS Phoolka, now leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, tops the expenditure chart in AAP, at Rs 22.69 lakh. He had declared assets of Rs 10.85 crore.

ADR founder-member Trilochan Sastry accepted that the actual expenditure is in crores which candidates admit in private. “The leaders should approach lawmakers in this regard so that they don’t have to fudge figures to stay within the expenditure cap,” he said.

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