The Hindu

Many members of the Assembly did not incur even half of the election expenses permitted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) during their election campaign, declarations filed by 139 the newly elected members show.

The average amount of money spent by them in the elections this year was only about 9 lakh, which is about 59 per cent of the expense limit (Rs. 16 lakh). As many as 39 MLAs have declared election expenses of less than Rs 8 lakh (that is less than 50% of expense limit set by ECI), says an analysis done by Association for Democratic Reforms, National Election Watch and Kerala Election Watch.

The National Election Watch, a nationwide campaign of non-governmental organisations and other citizen led organisations, have been working on electoral reforms, improving democracy and governance in India. They analysed the abstract statement of expenses of the 139 MLAs who have won the Kerala 2011 Assembly Elections. Election abstract statement of Abdussamad Samadani of Muslim League, who won from Kottakkal constituency, was not available on the Web site of Chief Electoral Officer, Kerala, for analysis.

The average election expense declared by 19 Muslim League members is Rs. 10.54 lakh while that of 38 Congress members is Rs. 10.04 lakh. The average for CPI (M)’s 45 members is Rs. 8.12 lakh and that for CPI’s 13 members is Rs. 8.91 lakh. Only four MLAs declared that they have spent more than 80 per cent of the permitted amount (i.e. over Rs.13 lakh).

The maximum expense of Rs. 15,24,665 has been declared by P. K. Basheer of Muslim League from Eranad constituency, followed by P. K. Kunhalikutty of the Muslim League from Vengara constituency (expense of about Rs.14 lakh) and B. Sathyan of CPI (M) from Attingal constituency (expense of about Rs.13 lakh).

The lowest expense of Rs. 249667 was declared by K. Kunhiraman of CPI(M) from Udma constituency. He is followed by Jayalakshmi of INC from Mananthavady with election expenses of about Rs. 4 lakh and K.K. Jayachandran of CPI (M) from Udumbanchola with expenses of Rs. 4.5 lakh.

Eight MLAs declared that they have spent less than Rs. 10000 on public meetings, processions and the like in the last elections. While 54 MLAs declared that they have not spent any amount on campaigning through electronic or print media, 19 MLAs said they spent less than Rs.10000 on the same.

While 39 MLAs declared that they have not spent any amount on campaign workers, 13 MLAs said they spent less than Rs.10000 on the same. Four MLAs declared that they spent less than Rs. 50000 for vehicles.

The National Election Watch demands that the ECI should specifically investigate the election expenses of candidates who have declared no or very low expenses on use of vehicles, campaign material, public meetings, campaign workers and print/electronic media to check the verity of these disclosures. It was interesting to note that almost all parties have been lobbying for an increase in the expense limit for election expenses.

As per the guidelines laid out in the Representation of Peoples' Act, any citizen can file a complaint against the declared expenses within 15 days of the last date of filing of election expenses which was June 13.

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