The Times of India
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma wants the gods on his side first. BJP's candidate for the Lok Sabha polls from West Delhi begins every shubh kaam-in this case, election campaign- with a hawan. Held the same day he filed his nomination, March 21, Verma paid Rs 15,240 for "hawan samagri" and Rs 2,100 as pandit dakshina. For the first time, the office of Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi, has been posting candidates' "day-to-day election expenditure register" online and, clearly, the money is not just going into pamphlets and transportation. The maximum a candidate is allowed to spend is Rs 70 lakh.

In its statement, Election Commission had ordered that a "shadow observation register" be maintained and after each inspection of the candidate's accounts, the details be "scanned and uploaded on the website of CEO, for public viewing". The register shows exactly what the candidate spent on in a particular day's campaign and covers everything from the cost of pamphlets and handbills (Rs 63,525 over three days for BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi) to "bread-butter" which seems to be independent candidate Jodhraj Paharia's staple diet.

"We are Arya Samajis," says Verma, "All the achcha kaam we do, we begin with a hawan. It happens in my election office."

Trinamool Congress candidate from Chandni Chowk, Hariom Sharma, gets around in style. He's paying for a BMW car-Rs1,825 for a day's spin. AAP candidate from West Delhi, former journalist Jarnail Singh, spent Rs 1.32 lakh on e-rickshaws over 10 days. "It's the vehicle of the aam aadmi and not expensive," says Singh, adding that about 30 are going about the constituency broadcasting Kejriwal's messages. Singh's counterpart in East Delhi, Anand Kumar, bought an SMS pack on March 25 for Rs 23,100. Kumar made bulk purchases of brooms daily from March 20 to 24.

Ruby Yadav (independent, South Delhi) bought 240 bucks worth of sugarcane juice on March 25 and spent Rs 20,000 on a website the following day. Tariq Mirza (RPI(A), Chandni Chowk) shelled out Rs 3,000 for a CD recording; Mahabal Mishra (Congress, West Delhi) has spent Rs 60,000 on 20,000 "pocket plans".

BJP candidate Harsh Vardhan's padyatra from Idgah to Multani Dhanda in Paharganj on March 27, cost Rs 16,080; his rival in the Chandni Chowk constituency, Congress' Kapil Sibal, bought "leaf and paper face-masks" for Rs 14,438 the next day. In New Delhi, it was Congress' Ajay Maken making an expensive padyatra-Rs 10,610 on April 1. AAP's Ashish Khetan spent Rs 70,400 on 32 three-wheelers on March 30 and again on April 1.

"EC is putting up the data in real time," says Anil Verma of Association for Democratic Reform, "And people will know how their candidates are spending money." But he explains that ADR's analysis of data from previous has shown that these declarations are "not a true reflection of the amount actually spent".

Verma says even when the previous limit was in force, candidates spent only a part of the maximum amount allowed. "What candidates submit is questionable. Another report shows that the party claimed to have spent amounts that the candidates' affidavits didn't mention."

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