The New Indian Express

With total seizures in the state touching the Rs.15 crore mark (till Saturday), the spending of unaccounted money to mobilise and lure voters could be much higher than previous elections.

With each passing election, funding by the corporate sector, real estate lobby, mining and service sectors and the sugar industry have contributed to the unaccounted expenses of a candidate in the state.

And it is increasing, says an expenditure observer, who adds: “With the state witnessing a bitter battle for 28 seats, huge amount of unaccounted money has entered the state, particularly in Bangalore, Bellary, Gulbarga, Chamarajnagar, Raichur and Hubli-Dharwad. The seizures, which are just about 10 per of the total illegal flow, demonstrate how both the candidates and the two national parties are doing everything to bag maximum seats.”

With the pressure mounting on the real estate sector, a realtor said: “For the past few days, Rs.20 crore has been indirectly distributed to candidates in Bangalore district. Most of the receipt-less funding has gone to Congress and BJP, while JD(S) has not got much. With the Master Plan (2030) for Bangalore outskirts yet to be released, we have to give whatever amount the candidates demand and in whatever form. However, in the last three days before the polls, this unaccounted funding will double to `40 crore,” he said.

According to a realtor, a sitting MP, who had availed the MPLAD funds for one of his pet projects in his constituency, had called and ‘asked’ him to construct the unit which had cost him Rs.5 lakh.

On the other hand, an industrialist said that sugar factories in Mandya, Belgaum, Bagalkot and Bijapur have sent in cash as well as items like sarees, readymade garments and utensils for distribution.

“Liquor (worth Rs.15-20 crore) still remains the main form of enticement for men voters. Sarees and garments for women in Hubli, Gulbarga, Kolar and Raichur districts have been distributed,” he added.

According to Prof Jagdeep S Choker, founder and trustee, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), illegal donations maybe 10 times more than legal funding.

“As it is impossible to estimate the election expenses of a candidate, there is no way of knowing the amount of unaccounted money.”

According to officials, in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, an estimated Rs.10,000 crore was spent by the ruling party.

“Now with Rs.70 lakh being the expenditure limit, it is safe to deduce that each candidate will be spending an amount of at least Rs.7 crore. But as per our estimate, each candidate maybe spending anywhere between Rs.5 and 25 crore,” he said. Outlining the huge amount of seizures, Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha said: “Cash seizure is high in the state. It is followed by liquor and not a day goes without one. We are making every effort to stem the unaccounted money in the state. All areas, including the border areas are being monitored and we are keeping an eye on important candidates and areas where there is more political revelry.”

An analysis by ADR of 6,353 candidates after the last elections revealed that only four claimed that they had spent more than the Rs.40 lakh limit while more than 6,000 candidates said they had spent only 50 per of the limit.

Prof Choker said: “Obviously, the declared amount is not the correct amount. So, when we do not know the actual expenditure of each contestant, how is it possible to assess the actual amount spent in elections? As per our assessment, the real cause for increase in expenditure is that the parties select non-local candidates and also the nexus between the corporate sector and politicians.”

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