Rs 60,000 crore spent during LS Polls 2019: Report

Election campaign illustration

The Lok Sabha elections 2019 has been described as the “most expensive election ever, anywhere” with a study pegging the money spent for the exercise at around Rs 55-60,000 crore, with the ruling BJP estimated to have spent 45% of the total expenditure. 

This time's expenditure is a growth of 6-7 times from the 1998 Lok Sabha polls when around Rs 9,000 crore was spent, the study 'Poll Expenditure: The 2019 Elections' by a private think tank the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) claimed.

Estimating that Rs 700 per vote was spent in the 2019 elections, it said that on an average, nearly Rs 100 crore has been spent per seat this time.

There were constituencies where individual candidate have spent more than Rs 40 crore. There are some 75-85 seats, including Mandya, Kalaburgi and Shimoga in Karnataka, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Baramati in Maharashtra and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, where high poll expenditure was witnessed compared to other constituencies in those states.

The amount for 2019, which was arrived through PEE (Perceptions, Experiences and Estimation) approach, could see a rise if one adds the expenditure incurred on advertisement and campaigns prior to the Election Commission announcement of dates as well as biopics and other related costs.

The report claimed that the BJP accounts for 45% of the total poll spending in 2019 as against 20% in 1998. The share of Congress, the main Opposition party, which incurred 45% of total expenditure in 2009 when it sought re-election, was 15-20% this time.

“The 2019 general election in India emerges to be the most expensive election ever, anywhere. Even more, this election to Lok Sabha will go down as a bitterly fought vicious campaign,” the report said.

In his foreword to the report, former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi wrote, “we cannot expect to see the next election any better than 2019 in terms of freeness, fairness and transparency, if the rising tide of criminalisation of politics and overarching influence of money in politics isn’t stemmed."

CMS Director General P N Vasanti said the estimates in the report were based in the “front end” costs and expenses traceable. “It is only tip of the iceberg. Imagine how deep and wide is this iceberg beneath, and how it can damage our democracy,” she wrote in the preface.

According to the CMS report, around Rs 12,000-15,000 crore were disbursed among 20-25% voters, while Rs 20,000-25,000 crore were spent on campaign and publicity. Around Rs 5,000-6,000 core were spent on logistics while Rs 3-6,000 crore utilised for other purposes.

Around Rs 10-12,000 crore were spent on formal campaigning, which was allowed by the Election Commission. The report said 10-12% voters acknowledged receiving cash "directly" while around 66% had said that voters around them also received cash for their vote.

The report said inducements of middlemen, who had influence on a chunk of voters, is not a new phenomenon but its extent was significant this time and has “become part of an overall strategy” of most parties. “Not all were paid in cash. Some were offered promises, including positions and patronage,” the report said.

"Voters were lured with differed offers for their vote. Benefits were offered as promises for voting and if party comes to power, including pension, school education, annual benefits, house construction, job guarantee etc. About 10 percent acknowledged that the candidate of the party in power had promised job, if voted again to power," the report said.

With around 40% voters acknowledging that they received poll-related messages on their mobile phone just before the polling day, the report said social media and IVRS were also a major head of expenditure.

Poll Expenditure

Voters Directly – 20-25% – Rs 12-15,000 crore

Campaign/Publicity – 30-35% – Rs 20-25,000 crore

Election Commission expenditure – 15-20% – Rs 10-12,000 crore

Logistics – 8-10% – Rs 5-6,000 crore

Miscellaneous – 5-10% – Rs 3-6,000 crore

Total – Rs 55-60,000 crore

Source: Poll Expenditure: The 2019 Elections/Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi

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