The Times of India

BHOPAL: Contesting election seems no more an expensive affair. If one goes by the expenditure statement filed by MLAs after the recently concluded assembly elections, more than 60% of them claim to have spent less than Rs 8 lakh. This, when the candidates have constantly claimed that election expenditure limit of Rs 16 lakh set by the ECI was too low.

Madhya Pradesh Election Watch (MPEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) have analyzed the election expenditure affidavits of 209 out of the 230 newly-elected MLAs. The election expense documents include details of expenses on public meeting and processions, campaigning through electronic and print media, expense on campaign workers, vehicles used by them and expense on campaign materials.

The report released by MPEW and ADR states, 129 MLAs (62%) have declared poll expenses of less than 50% of the ceiling of Rs 16 lakh while the average amount spent by them in the elections is only about Rs 7.64 lakh, which is 48% of the expense limit fixed by the election commission.

BJP's 154 MLAs have spent Rs 7.52 lakh (47% of the expense limit) on an average while Congress's 48 MLAs have spent higher, Rs 8.13 lakh or 51% of the expense limit. The four BSP MLAs have spent Rs 5.22 lakh (33% of the expense limit) and the expenditure for 3 independent MLAs is Rs 9.31 lakh (58% of the expense limit).

Shivraj's team
The 22 cabinet ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet spent Rs 8.07 lakh on an average. As many as 10 out of 23 ministers including Chouhan declared election expenses of less than 8 lakh. Among the ministers, finance minister Jayant Mallaiya declared highest election expense ofs Rs 11.79 lakh (74%) while higher education minister Umashankar Gupta barely spent Rs 3.48 lakh, less than one-fourth of the allowed expense.

Chouhan himself has declared an election expense of Rs 10.10 lakh (63%) and Rs 9.77 lakh (61%) from Budhni and Vidisha constituencies respectively.
Highest and lowest
BJP MLA from Hata constituency Umadevi Khatik used up almost all of the allowed bucks. Her poll expenditure was Rs 15.67 lakh or 98% of the limit. She was followed by the former leader of opposition from Churhat constituency and Congress MLA Ajay Singh with an expenditure of Rs 13.67 lakh (85%). Another Congress MLA from Maihar constituency was third on the list with an expense of Rs 13.19 lakh (82%).

Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Bhangwanpura Vijay Singh spent only Rs 2.38 lakh (15% of the expense limit) during elections. He is followed by two BJP MLAs, Deewan Singh from Pansemal with election expenses of about Rs 2.57 lakh (16%) and Manoj Patel from Depalpur constituency with expenses of Rs 3.23 lakh (20%).

No poll expenses!
It is surprising that eight MLAs have declared that they have not spent any amount on public meetings and processions among others while 87 MLAs (42%) have declared that they have not spent a dime in campaigning through electronic or print media. There are as many as 20% MLAs who have claimed that they did not spend any amount on campaign workers. BJP's Gyan Singh from Bandhavgarh constituency declared that he has not spent a penny on poll vehicles.

All MLAs have declared that they have incurred some expense on campaign materials and erection of gates, arches, banners etc. Hardeep Singh Dang, Congress MLA from Suwarsa spent the lowest: Rs 15,267 on these.

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