Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 27:
Elections, it is said, are about spending big. But most of the MP and MLA candidates in Odisha have apparently spent even less than half the limit set by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the recently concluded elections held in April.
Although money power was in brazen display during the elections, the candidates and those who got elected to the august houses of Assembly and Lok Sabha have claimed in their declarations that they have even failed to touch the limit bar of ECI.
The election commission had upped the expense limit for Lok Sabha elections from Rs40 lakh to Rs70 lakh per candidate this time while it had set a limit of Rs 25 lakh for candidates contesting Assembly elections.
If we believe the poll expense records of all those who contested the 2014 general elections submitted before the Chief Electoral Office (CEO), Odisha, maximum candidates kept their expenses extremely low despite the high profile campaign, where sizzling beauties of Bollywood and prominent actors descended to woo the voters with their glamour on behalf of the candidates.
BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who made a whirlwind campaign across the state and ensured a marvolous victory for the party, has spent only Rs 17.27 lakh, including 12.59 lakh for organising meetings and rallies in Hinjili constituency. Patnaik, in his affidavit for poll expenditure, claimed that the party had given him Rs 13.10 lakh while he had spent Rs 4.27 lakh from his own resources.
Similarly, former School and Mass Education Minister Rabi Narayan Nanda, who had requisitioned Bollywood star Suneil Shetty, who Nanda claimed was a good friend, has spent no more than Rs 17.72 lakh during election campaigns.
BJP MLA Dillip Ray, the richest person among the MLA candidates, has spent only Rs 11 lakh while Bijay Mohapatra claimed to have spent only Rs 12.14 lakh in his campaign said their respective affidavits.
The MP candidates have also failed to touch the limit of ECI with their maximum expenses going no further than 60%.
Pinaki Mishra, who tops the list of rich candidates with property worth Rs 137 crore, has shown in his affidavit that his poll expense was Rs 36.68 lakh, just 52.4% of limit. Similarly, Ama Odisha Party nominee Sanjoy Hans, who comes second with assets of Rs 57 crore, has spent only Rs 3.25 lakh in the elections.
Former Union Minister Srikant Jena has spent Rs 25.18 lakh while incumbent Union Minister and lone BJP MP from Odisha Jual Oram has shown in the affidavit that he was poorer by Rs 48.46 lakh, including funds given from party.
Under the Representation of the People Act, every contesting candidate must file an account of his or her election expenses with the concerned district election officer within 30 days of date of declaration of the results.
However, the Election Commission has the authority to disqualify a candidate for furnishing false accounts of election expenditure. The Commission derives its power to disqualify a candidate for three years from the enabling provisions in the Representation of the People Act and the Conduct of Election Rules,1961.
Candidates have constantly claimed that the election expenditure limit set is very low. However, based on the election expense declarations of 437 MPs analysed from Lok Sabha, 2009 to the Election Commission, 129 MPs (30%) have declared election expenses of less than 50% of the expense limit in their constituency.