New Delhi

 Nearly half the 49 national and regional political parties that contested Lok Sabha and Assembly elections over the past decade spent more than the funds they raised, an NGO said today after analysing data provided by the parties themselves.

Although a poll expenditure higher than a party's collections does not violate any law or Election Commission rule, the finding lends credence to charges of huge sums of unaccounted money being pumped into campaigns.

Releasing the findings as part of its National Election Watch exercise, the watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) demanded more transparency in the way political parties raise their funds.

"There is a lot of unaccounted money being spent during elections. While there is a cap on what individual candidates can spend, there is no limit on the expenditure of political parties," ADR head Anil Verma said at a briefing.

Political parties have to declare their poll expenses and collections but are not required to report any donation below Rs 20,000 they receive, although some of them claim to declare even these smaller sums.

According to the ADR, both the BJP and the Congress let their spending outstrip their fundraising for the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, 2009 and 2014. While the BJP, the NGO says, declared collections of Rs 855.22 crore for the three elections, it reported spending Rs 914.74 crore.

For the Congress, the corresponding figures were Rs 790.55 crore in collections and Rs 1,008.02 crore in expenditure.

The top five regional parties in fund collections for the last three general elections were the Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and the Shiromani Akali Dal, in that order. Among them, the AIADMK and the Akalis spent more than they collected.

When it comes to state elections, the Samajwadis again lead the pack, followed in order by the Aam Aadmi Party, Akalis, Shiv Sena and the Trinamul Congress. The Akalis again spent more than they collected: Rs 24.05 crore against Rs 21.67 crore.

So did Trinamul: Rs 18.76 crore against Rs 13.24 crore.

Despite being formed only in 2012, the Aam Aadmi Party ranked second in collections among regional parties in the lone general election it contested in 2014 and the two Delhi elections of 2013 and 2015.

For the Lok Sabha polls, it garnered Rs 51.83 crore - 19 per cent of the total funds collected by the five top regional parties. It collected Rs 38.54 crore for the two Assembly elections.

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