New Delhi: A staggering Rs 55,000-60,000 crore was spent in the Lok Sabha elections, 2019, according to a study by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a not-for-profit multi-disciplinary development research think-tank.
The figure is almost twice the amount estimated by the CMS for the last general polls in 2014 at Rs 30,000.
The report, named ‘Poll Expenditure: The 2019 Elections’, has termed the recent democratic exercise as the ‘most expensive election ever, anywhere’ with an estimated Rs 100 crore spent in each Lok Sabha constituency. Effectively, an approximate Rs 700 per vote was spent.
According to the report, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spent about 45 per cent of the total amount in the recently concluded parliamentary polls.
In comparison, the party had spent just 20 per cent of the total expenditure in 1998. On the other hand, the Congress, which had spent 40 per cent of the total poll expenditure in 2009 when it was in power, spent about 15-20 per cent in 2019.
Overall, expenditure in the last six Lok Sabha elections between 1998 and 2019 has seen a near six-fold jump from Rs 9,000 in 1998 to over Rs 55,000 crore in 2019.
The same was Rs 10,000 crore in 1999, Rs 14,000 crore in 2004, Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 and Rs 30,000 in 2014.
The expenditure by the BJP has seen a consistent rise during the same period, while it has fallen for the Congress after 2009.
The estimates, which are derived through what the CMS calls a perception, experience and estimation approach, are based on front-end costs and expenses after the Election Commission issued its notification on March 11.
The report adds that the money spent before the announcement of polling schedule, though deserves to be added, has not been included in the final figure, which could potentially take the amount even higher.
In terms of individual constituencies, there are at least 75 to 85 seats where individual candidates spent more than Rs 40 crore, which is over 50 times the expenditure limit (Rs 70 lakh) mandated by the polling body per candidate in a constituency.
These include Amethi and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Mandya and Shimoga in Karnataka, Bhopal and Guna in Madhya Pradesh, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Baramati and Nagpur in Maharashtra, among others.
Additionally, the law enforcement agencies working under the EC made record seizures during the elections.
According to the commission's seizure report dated May 24, 2019, a total of Rs 3,475 crore worth of cash and other items were confiscated during the elections, which is almost three times the amount seized in all of 2014 Lok Sabha election.
This included, Rs 844 crore worth of cash, Rs 304 crore worth of liquor, Rs 1,279 crore worth of drugs/narcotics, Rs 987 crore worth of precious metals (gold etc.), and other items or freebies worth Rs 60 crore.