Each voter stands to gain Rs 550-Rs650 in the coming elections, assuming there's a 75 per cent turnout, according to research on election spending by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Media Studies (CMS).
That works out to as much as Rs3,000-Rs4,000 crore spent in giving cash inducements to voters in the 2014 elections, CMS chairman N Bhaskara Rao told dna. And this sum does not include what is spent on liquor or freebies that parties are wont to giving out at election time.
CMS recently estimated that Rs 30,000 crore will be spent in this year's elections. This is far from giving a stimulus to the economy, said Rao. "In fact, it is vitiating the foundations of our democracy."
CMS research, based on interviews with voters from across India, found that the cash-for-votes phenomenon is extremely widespread. According to Rao, the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (AP), Karnataka, and increasingly Mahrashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are among the worst offenders in what Rao termed "quid-pro-quo electioneering". Tripura, with only two Lok Sabha seats, West Bengal and Kerala saw the least spends by candidates.
Ironically, a recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), showed that candidates had, on average, spent Rs14.62 lakh in their election campaign in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, reaching just 59% of the then Rs40 lakh cap, which has now been increased to Rs 70 lakh. The ADR report was based on expenditure statements submitted to the Election Commission (EC) by 437 MPs in the 2009 polls.
According to Rao, candidates in Andhra Pradesh fare among the worst in election spending. "A quick estimate of what is likely to be spent by candidates in all these various polls (there'll be assembly and local bodies, besides general elections) in Andhra Pradesh during this quarter would not be less than Rs 7,000 crore. It should not be a surprise if the amount goes beyond Rs10,000 crore," a recent paper by Rao said.
In the Vijaywada municipal corporation elections alone, he said, Rs 100 crore was spent in 20 days. "And the Vijayawada corporation does not have the money to pay salaries.Rs50-Rs80 lakh in cash is being seized every day," said Rao.
CMS has been tracking and analysing election spending since 1996. In 1996, it estimated that Rs2,500 crore were spent on polls; in 2004, the figure doubled to more than Rs5,000 crore while in the last election, the amount was between Rs10,000-12,000 crore.
According to Rao, television will account for around Rs 2,000 crore of election spends. A similar amount will be spent on mobilising voters at public meetings and rallies. Political parties, CMS has estimated, will spend another Rs2,000 crore.
The Rs 3,500 crore figure that the EC gave out as the amount it would spend on conducting the polls, said Rao, was likely double if the expenses incurred by many other state ans central departments that contribute to elections are added up.