A whopping amount was spent in 2019 polls and the scale of expenditure should "scare us," a city-based think-tank on Monday claimed.
The Centre for Media Studies after releasing a report on 2019 polls expenditure (external link), also claimed the recently-concluded election has signalled that the more the expenditure, the "more vicious and ugly" the campaigns become.
At a function held at the IIC in New Delhi, a panel discussion was also held in which former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi also participated.
The CMS, in its report has claimed that about Rs 60,000 crore were spent in the 2019 elections, and the formal expenditure component -- the amount spent by the Election Commission is nearly 15-20 per cent of that."
"The scale of the expenditure should scare us and compel us to think of taking corrective steps to build a stronger democracy," CMS's chairman N Bhaskara Rao said.
The report has also claimed that, on an average "nearly Rs 100 crore per Lok Sabha constituency has been spent".
"It is high time the Parliament deliberate on poll expenditure for campaigns, and about election funding, preceded by serious national discussions," the report said.
Rao said, the idea of publishing the report was to present a "larger picture" on poll spending to people, as there are other components also involved in it, such as money spent on campaigns, logistics, and other miscellaneous cost, which are "not factored in", he said.
He also said, different political parties were "invited" but "no representatives from any party" turned up for the event, adding the report is based on various studies conducted by the CMS.
2019 costs include expenditure on assembly elections held in 2019
"For a different reason, also the 2019 Lok Sabha poll was a watershed election. This was how major source of poll funding is now corporate and in the name of transparency, anonymity is promoted in that process," the report claimed.
'Crowd funding' where citizen and community contributes for campaigns is "no longer a sought after source. Is this good for vibrancy of democracy or not one could wonder? Can we save India from being put in "flawed democracy" category of countries, without addressing ever increasing poll expenditure and the implications, the report said.
"Also, biopics of contesting leaders and their trailers timed for the occasion continued in 2019 polls. Even more glaring initiative was emergence of a round-the-clock DTH channel from nowhere and dedicated to a party's poll propaganda. How can an estimate of poll expenditure not include these costs," the CMS report alleged.
Betting on who wins or loses (at constituency and national level and who gets what the number of seats) now involves "huge amount running into hundreds of crores", it said.
"This (betting) happens at the beginning, during the campaign period and even after the polling. This is not included as this money is not for voters. But sometimes this is also deliberately conducted to influence voting trend for a bandwagon effect," the report said.
CMS is a not-for-profit, multi-disciplinary development research and facilitative think-tank. It endeavours to work towards responsive governance and equitable development through research, and capacity building in social development, media, transparency and governance issues at local and national policy levels.