From R10.45 cr spent by the Centre in the 1952 Lok Sabha elections to about R846.67 cr in 2009—and with an estimated R7,000 cr this time around—we look at the numbers to size up what is being widely perceived as the most expensive electoral exercise in Indian history
ELECTIONS TO the world’s largest democracy—as per data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on February 14, 2014, there are a total of 81.45 crore registered electors in the country—don’t come cheap. If a recent report is anything to go by, a whopping R30,000 crore is likely to be spent during the ongoing Lok Sabha polls (the figure includes the total poll spending by the government, political parties and candidates), making it by far the most expensive electoral exercise in Indian history.
Of the R30,000 crore, the exchequer is likely to spend about R7,000 crore to hold the electoral exercise, a recent study carried out by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), found out. While the ECI is likely to spend around R3,500 crore, the Union home ministry, Indian Railways, various other government agencies and state governments are expected to spend a similar amount to put in place the means to ensure free and fair polls.
The expenditure, projected by the New Delhi-based not-for-profit think tank, is set to rival the $7 billion (approximately R42,000 crore) spent by candidates and parties in the 2012 US presidential elections.
In fact, a similar study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said the estimated election spending amount will create a huge multiplier GDP effect of at least R60,000 crore, giving a shot in the arm to the Indian economy.
Data collected from the ECI and law ministry websites and compiled by the poll panel show that expenditure on conducting Lok Sabha polls has increased manifold—from R10.45 crore spent by the Centre in 1952 to R846.67 crore for the 2009 polls.
Cost-wise, the 2004 Lok Sabha election was the heaviest on the government exchequer with about R1,114 crore spent in the exercise. In that election, the per voter cost, too, was the highest, as the government had spent about R17 per elector.
There was an increase in the election cost by 17.53% vis-a-vis the 1999 general elections despite the fact that there was a reduction in the number of polling stations by 11.26%, the ECI data revealed.
As per ECI guidelines, the entire expenditure