CHENNAI: Region and national parties in Tamil Nadu spent Rs 176.06 crore on their candidates for the 2016 assembly election in the state. Among the parties, DMKspent the most, Rs 97.33 crore, followed by AIADMK, which showed expenses of Rs 64.71 crore. While DMK has included the money the party headquarters spent on candidates towards poll expenditure, AIADMK has not revealed this detail. The poll expenditure submitted by parties to the Election Commission was collated and released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organization working in the area of electoral and political reforms.

The political parties in the state have collected Rs 37.88 crore in the form of donations for the election. "Congress collected the maximum amount of Rs 13.97 crore as donations, followed by DMK with Rs 9.7 crore and PMK with Rs 8.27 crore. AIADMK has collected Rs 4.1 crore," said ADR.

Top on the parties' expense sheets is the money spent on publicity followed by funds given to candidates towards poll expenditure. Of the total amount of Rs 97.33 crore spent by DMK, Rs 50.91 crore is on publicity followed by Rs 44.97 crore divided among its candidates who contested the election.

"Parties have to show in their accounts money spent on candidates. The EC cannot work that out on its own," former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami told TOI. Each party may have several accounts, either in banks or in the form of cash and they allocate money for candidates too. "Only a few candidates in all the parties will be in a position to contest on their own and all others are dependent on money allocated by parties," pointed out Gopalaswami.

While 180 DMK candidates contested in the assembly election, 234 AIADMK candidates, including three allies who contested in the party's two-leaves symbol, were in the fray.

AIADMK has shown that it has spent Rs 9.42 crore on travel for leaders. "Most of the money spent on travel was for Amma (former chief minister J Jayalalithaa). She spoke at several meetings across the state and returned from the venues to Chennai the same night by a chopper. For our party it was only Amma who campaigned for all the candidates," said an AIADMK leader not willing to be named.

"Details of all donors who contribute to national and regional parties, exclusively for their election campaigns, must be declared in the public domain irrespective of the amount donated. A format, similar to the donations report submitted to the ECI on an annual basis, has to be prescribed for the expenditure statement so as to bring in more transparency in the finances of political parties, especially during elections when it is said black money plays a major role," said ADR founder Jagdeep Chokkar.

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