India readies for globe’s most expensive polls

India readies for globe’s most expensive polls

 That India is going to elect its
next government between April 11 and 19 May, with the verdict coming on 23rd
of the latter month, the whole world awaits to see in which direction the Asian
giant will move from the day of result. Amidst allegations and counter
allegations by political parties of all of black money being used by the other,
expected that the over Rs. 70,000 crore to Rs 1,00,000 crore (US$ 15 billion) will
be spent in upcoming Lok Sabha polls campaigning. 

 

According to official reports,
political parties had spent around Rs 30,000 crore in 2014 polls, but the
actual figures spent via unaccounted monies always remained shrouded in
mystery.

 

In addition, it has also been noticed
that only the national parties and very few regional parties had filed their IT
returns on a regular basis every year.

 

It is also believed that compared to
the previous Lok Sabha polls, there might be much more spending in political
advertising this election. This is evident from the advertisements appearing in
almost all the newspapers, channels, magazines and not to mention the
aircharters, helicopters and social media campaigns, all of which remain under
the radar of the Election Commission.

 

Even US-based expert predicted that
the upcoming general elections in India will be the most expensive in Indian
history and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic
country.

 

‘The combined US presidential and
congressional elections in 2016 cost $6.5 billion. If the 2014 Lok
Sabha elections cost as an estimated $5 billion, there is little
doubt that the 2019 election will easily surpass that, making India’s elections
the world’s most expensive’, said, Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director
of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment.

 

Former Chief Election Commissioner
(CEC) T.S. Krishnamurthy has also warned that the coming Lok Sabha election
will be marked by ‘more money, violence and hatred’ given the way political
parties fight amongst themselves.

 

There is a pan country consensus
that current regulatory mechanisms are not enough to put a check on the growing
influence of black money in Lok Sabha, Assembly, Gram Panchayat and Urban Local
Body (ULB) elections. It is of utmost importance to take comprehensive steps
and corroborate the actual financial information received, spent on the ground,
for both parties and candidates from various sources.

 

As per the current guideline, a
candidate can spend between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state
they are contesting the Lok Sabha election from. For all states, except
Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, a candidate can spend a maximum of Rs 70
lakh on canvassing. The cap for Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim is Rs 54
lakh. The same is Rs 70 lakh for Delhi and Rs 54 lakh for other Union
territories. For the assembly elections, the ceiling is between Rs 20 lakh and
Rs 28 lakh.

 

Although much is said and done on
papers to contain the habit of splurging during elections in India, it is
evident by ongoing extravagant events or rallies and costly media campaigns by
various political fronts across the country that this election will be one of
the costliest ones in the history of democracy!

 

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