Indian elections to cost Rs 100 billion

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, May 1:

India’s ongoing general election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, is to cost a whopping Rs 100 billion ($2.25 billion).

The total spending by the Election Commission alone on the five-phase parliamentary poll that concludes on May 10 works out to Rs 55 billion ($1.2 billion) - against Rs 32 billion ($720 million) in 1999, the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) has estimated in a study.

The cost comes to a little over Rs 75 per registered voter - India has some 675 million voters - but will actually come to around Rs 125 per person if only those who actually voted is taken into account.

Nearly a fifth of the Election Commission’s cost, or about Rs 10 billion ($225 million), is on account of electronic voting machines (EVM) and polling booths.

Another one-fifth of the cost goes into personnel manning polling stations across the country.

The Election Commission spent Rs 1 billion ($22 million) to educate voters about the use of EVMs and on publicity through state-owned broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio.

But the study noted that despite such efforts to promote voting, there was no breakthrough in the voter turnout.

While in 1999 such exercises indicated a marginal rise in the percentage of voters not intending to vote, the balloting in these elections indicates no big difference.

The spending by candidates on their campaigns is likely to double since 1999, and will be far beyond the prescribed limit of Rs 2.5 million ($56,150), CMS notes.

The total expenditure of all candidates was estimated at Rs.55 billion ($1.2 billion), although this figure does not include indirect expenditure outside the government and political parties.

According to the study conducted by the Centre for Media Studies, a quarter of all expenditure by parties and candidates was on publicity, including in the print and electronic media.

Around a third is spent on the actual campaigning, which includes travelling, hiring vehicles and aircraft and paying for fuel and workers.

The CMS further says though the expenditure ceiling was raised from Rs 1 million ($22,500) to Rs 2.5 million ($56,150) for national elections and from Rs 500,000 to Rs 1 million ($11,500 to $22,500) for assembly polls, candidates would actually end up spending more than double this time, due to the unusually long-drawn out campaign for the staggered polling.

In fact, there would be about 100 parliamentary constituencies where key contestants would spending more than Rs 10 million ($224,600) each, and in some 50 constituencies the candidate would spend even more - Rs 100 million ($2.2 million).