Source: 
Live Mint
http://www.livemint.com/2012/01/12233249/EC-sees-Rs1000-cr-expenditure.html?h=B
Date: 
13.01.2012
City: 
New Delhi

The Election Commission of India (EC) estimates it will spend Rs. 1,000 crore to hold the forthcoming assembly polls in five states—double of what it spent five years ago on elections to the same assemblies.

Much of the increase in the expenditure, analysts say, is because of having more strict monitoring and new expenses such as the EC-mandated covering of statues in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

 

UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa go to polls inJanuary-end to March.

“Of (the) Rs. 1,000 crore earmarked for these five states, around 50% will go towards UP with the rest being used in other states,” said an EC official requesting anonymity.

The expenditure is towards setting up the physical polling infrastructure and mobilizing security forces, the official added.

For the general election scheduled in 2014, EC estimates the exchequer will have to bear an expenditure of Rs. 8,000 crore.

Voters in the five states going to polls will elect representatives to 690 assembly constituency seats—403 in UP, 117 in Punjab, 70 in Uttarakhand, 60 in Manipur and 40 in Goa.

Mint’s Utpal Bhaskar says the Election Commission expects to spend Rs1,000 crore to conduct the upcoming assembly polls in the five states

“Every time additional expenditure has to be incurred to conduct elections,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a New Delhi-based research firm.

“Additional expenditure incurred by EC in Uttar Pradesh election this time, over the expense incurred in 2007, comes from installation of visual monitoring devices in booths, which are considered vulnerable to malpractices; centralized complaint redressal mechanism and district monitoring committees,” Rao said. “Usually, the special squad used to check vehicles only 48 hours before voting. This time, the vehicles will be checked from the very beginning.”

CMS estimated overall poll spending in the 2009 April-May general election at Rs. 10,000 crore—more than double the amount spent in 2004. Of this, about Rs. 2,500 crore was below-the-line spending by candidates, it estimated.

Analysts say the increase in poll expenditure is a reflection of the changing times. “Last assembly elections, the expenditure was about Rs. 500 crore. The Election Commission is only talking about the expenditure incurred by it. Expenses have also been incurred by state governments, public sector units and central departments that will be approximately the same amount,” Rao said.

“Over the years, the conduct of election has improved tremendously. For instance, booth capturing is a phenomenon of the past. This has been possible because of the vast mobilization of security officials and increased monitoring,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founder-member of the Association of Democratic Reforms. “Now, this involves heavy expenditure. So, yes, there has been an increase in expenditure over and above inflation.”

Overall, around 700 battalions of security forces will be deployed to ensure the elections are free and fair.

EC places an expenditure ceiling of Rs. 40 lakh per candidate for Lok Sabha elections and Rs. 16 lakh for state assembly polls. The limits were recently increased from Rs. 25 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh, respectively.

Besides the cost of covering up the statues in UP, “expenditure has to be incurred for special squads, district committee, etc. These all are new expenditure when compared with last elections”, Rao said. In earlier days, “the expenditure was only on account of ballot boxes and paper...,but now it’s a big machinery working to conduct elections.”

EC has asked to cover all statues of UP chief minister Mayawati and the symbol of her Bahujan Samaj Party, the elephant, so that voters aren’t unduly influenced.

Analysts believe the outcome of the state polls may encourage the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to call for early general election to the Lok Sabha.

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