The Times Of India
Rohit Mullick, TNN

Even though crores of rupees and lakhs of liters of liquor were seized during the campaigning for Punjab elections in January this year, and chief election commissioner SY Quraishi had also raised concerns over use of money power in polls, 'officially' not even a single penny more was spent by politicians than what was fixed by the commission. Actually, they spent far less than the limit of Rs 16 lakh each during elections.

Data complied by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Punjab Election Watch, both NGOs working for electoral reforms, reveals that the average expense declaration of 109 MLAs out of the total 117 MLAs was Rs 6,77,887, a mere 42% of the permissible limit of Rs 16 lakh. Only 31 candidates declared that they utilized at least 50% of the permissible limit by declaring expenses of more than Rs 8 lakh.

As per their expense declaration to the election commission, no politician crossed the Rs 16 lakh mark and Simarjit Singh Bains, an independent candidate from Atam Nagar constituency in Ludhiana spent the highest amount of Rs 13.24 lakh during his campaigning.

Congress candidate Karan Kaur Brar, who is also the richest politician of Punjab with movable and immovable assets of over Rs 128 crore, came second with declared expenditure of Rs 13.23 lakh. While the Congress politicians on an average incurred Rs 7.40 lakh in elections, the winning Shiromani Akali Dal MLAs spent even less with an average of Rs 5.95 lakh. BJP MLAs spent Rs 7.82 lakh on an average, reveals the ADR report.

Ironically, BJP's Seema Devi from Bhoa in Pathankot, who is one of the 'poorest' politicians with assets of just Rs 2.81 lakh managed to spend Rs 9.25 lakh during campaigning. The data also reveals that the winning percentage of politicians whose declared assets were between Rs 1 crore and Rs 5 crore was highest 40%. The winning percentage of politicians with assets of Rs 10 crore and above was 22%.

Maximum average amount of Rs 9.34 lakh was spent by politicians in Mohali constituency and lowest average amount of Rs 3.95 lakh was used during electioneering in Tarn Taran district, states the report.

"While on the one hand politicians of major parties in Punjab have been asking to raise the expense limit and on the other have not been able to even utilize the amount fixed by the election commission. I fail to understand this. It is so illogical," said PEW director Jaskirat. Agreeing that much more money than what was declared by politicians was spent in elections, Jaskirat said that the expenditure including on liquor, drugs and gifts was illegal and thus not counted. "All the real chunk of expenditure during elections is basically illegal. Politicians try to keep what is legal as low as possible," added Jaskirat.

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