As ongoing Lok Sabha polls reach the sixth phase, a new study has found that the total money spent on all elections in last five years has crossed Rs 1,50,000 crore and over half of these funds have come from "unaccounted sources".
The study, conducted by think-tank CMS, comes at a time when various political parties are accusing each other of using alleged black money in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, which began on April 7 and will continue till May 12.
So far, voting has taken place in 232 Lok Sabha seats across five phases, while a further 311 constituencies will go to polls in the remaining four phases.
There have already been many cases where the Election Commission has confiscated bundles of cash and other items across the country and it is keeping a close tab on any possible use of unaccounted cash and other incentives to lure voters during elections, which have traditionally been very expensive affairs in India.
According to the CMS study, more than Rs 1,50,000 crore has been spent across various elections held in India over the past five years.
"This is a conservative estimate. Out of this huge amount, more than half is black money. The black money funding for polls is the mother of all corruption in our nation," CMS Chairman N Bhaskara Rao told PTI. Of this Rs 1.5 lakh crore, one-fifth or Rs 30,000 crore is on account of the current Lok Sabha election. One-third of this total amount, or Rs 45,000-50,000 crore, has been spent on state assembly elections, CMS found.
About Rs 30,000 crore has been spent on panchayat polls, Rs 20,000 crore for mandals, Rs 15,000 crore for municipal elections and a further Rs 10,000 crore for zilla parishads, it added.
"In a typical Lok Sabha poll, media campaigns (25%) and pre-poll expenditure by parties in power (20-25%) account for a big pie of the spending. In smaller elections, things are different. Media spending is much lower and in the mandals and panchayats, rally expenses are virtually non-existent," says Rao, who is tracking election spending since 1996.
Elaborating further, he said that the expenditure by political parties is less than 10% in local elections compared to 20% in a Lok Sabha election. "On the other hand, the funds spent by candidates to get nomination is much higher than in case of Lok Sabha," he claimed.
On corporate funding, CMS is of the view that spending by companies pick up significant pace where winning electors can influence legislations.
"The huge requirement of funds from parties to candidates and finally the way these expenses are dealt with shows that the party system has crumbled. When outside candidates fight polls from a place they are not aware of, note-for-vote happens in a big way. Unless election expenses are properly accounted for, there is no way to ensure good governance," Rao said.