The Pioneer

How much money should a political leader spend on contesting Assembly election? Put this question to Samajwadi Party legislator Narad Rai and he would say just Rs 24,344!

This is exactly the amount that this ruling party legislator from Ballia Nagar Assembly constituency spent in his 2012 election. Rai is not the only legislator with such meagre poll expenses. Bahujan Samaj Party's Surajpal Singh who successfully contested the election from Fatehpur Sikri constituency in Agra has claimed his poll expenditure to be only Rs 36,470. These are some of the poll expenses declared by the winning candidates to the Election Commission.

The negligible amounts shown by some candidates as their poll expenses have baffled even the senior officials of the Election Commission. "These figures are unbelievable. Have they not spent any money on transportation, posters and other paraphernalia? These figures are just too low... Vishwas nahi hota," Deputy Chief Election Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh, Anita Meshram, told 'The Pioneer' on Monday.

The successful candidates have to submit the details of their poll expenses to the Election Commission within one month of declaration of results. Till Friday last, 199 of the 403 candidates had filed their poll expenses declaration. "Our teams of experts have gone to every constituency. They will verify the claims of the candidates. And if any discrepancy is found, action will be taken against them," Meshram said. Narad Rai says the poll expenses, from his standard, are a bit on the higher side. I am a popular leader. I do not need money for gaadi-ghoda (vehicles). When people of Ballia are with me, where is the need to spend money on campaigning?" he asks.

Incidentally, Basic Education Minister Ram Govind Chaudhary won the Assembly poll from the neighbouring Bansdih constituency in Ballia district and he spent Rs 14.63 lakh on his election. "Ask Ram Govind why he had spent Rs 14 lakh plus. I have not. I do not have that much money," Rai, a three-time MLA, said. His poll expenditure of Rs 24,344 was on campaign material, including erection of gates, aches, cut-outs, posters etc. There are others like Shri Bhagwan Sharma, SP MLA from Debai in Bulandshahr, and Maikal Chandra, the SP legislator from Dhanaura, who have spent nothing on campaign material though both spent over Rs 7 lakh on their elections. There are at least four legislators who have shown 'zero' expenses on vehicle used while 65 others have said that they did not pay a penny to workers who campaigned for them. The expense limit for candidates in Assembly polls is Rs 16 lakh. It is not that all the legislators were that frugal. Raghuraj Singh Shakya, the SP MLA from Etawah, spent Rs 20.63 lakh--129 per cent of the limit. Sukh Devi Verma, the ruling party legislator from Bharthana (SC) constituency in Etawah, also crossed the upper limit of poll expenditure as she spent Rs 18.44 lakh, 115 per cent of the limit. Preetam Ram's poll expenditure was Rs 15.26 lakh. He is also SP legislator from Puranpur (SC) in Pilibhit district.

While analysing the election expenses, National Election Watch said a total of 80 MLAs out of 199 who filed their poll expenditure have declared it to be less than Rs 8 lakh. It further says that party-wise, the average poll expenditure of SP's 109 MLAs was Rs 9.42 lakh, of BSP's 40 MLAs, Rs 7.56 lakh, of BJP's 27 legislators, Rs 7.41 lakh, of Congress' 13 MLAs, 9.47 lakh and of Rashtriya Lok Dal's five MLAs, Rs 8.55 lakh.

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