Transparency in the election fundingcontinues to be a far cry with 71.27% of the total income of political parties still coming from unknown sources. Meanwhile in the recently concluded Punjab assembly elections, Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) of Bains brothers was the top spender in terms of average election expenses by winning candidates. Badals-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was at number two.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on Friday released an analysis of election expenditure by winning candidates of Punjab. The report points out that out of the total 117 MLAs, 39% (or 46) have claimed they spent less than 50% of the Rs 28 lakh limit put by the Election Commission. What's more, 69 MLAs (59%) have declared they did not receive any funds from their respective political parties.

As per the records submitted to the election commission by the contestants, Congress Bassi Pathana MLA Gurpreet Singh spent maximum amount of Rs 26.89 lakh for fighting the elections, followed by Charnajit Singh Channi of Congress who spent Rs 26.83 lakh in Chamkaur Sahib, and Simarjeet Singh Bains of LIP who spent Rs 25.18 lakh to win Atam Nagar seat.

Among the MLAs with lowest election expenses, Harpartap Singh of Congress spent a little over Rs 4 lakh in Ajnala, followed by Sukhpal Singh Bhullar of Congress in Khemkaran who spent Rs 6.5 lakh. Congress's Rakesh Pandey won the Ludhiana North seat after spending Rs 7.19 lakh.

Considering party-wise, the average spending for 77 MLAs of the Congress was Rs 15.25 lakh (54.5% of the expense limit). For 20 MLAs from AAP, the average election expenditure was Rs 14.86 lakh (53% of the expense limit). 15 MLAs of SAD spent Rs 15.76 Lakh (56% of the expense limit) on an average. BJP's 3 MLAs spent Rs 15.49 Lakh (55% of the expense limit) on an average, the figure for two MLAs from Lok Insaaf Party (Bains brothers themselves) was Rs 20.01 Lakh (71.5% of the expense limit).

Out of the 117 MLAs analyzed, 45 (38%) MLAs have declared that they have not spent any amount on public meetings and processions with star campaigners. In addition, 8 MLAs declared that they have not spent any amount on campaign materials. Out of the total funds received by MLAs, 22% funds were raised from political parties, 39% were raised by MLAs themselves, and 39% funds were raised from other sources.

On an average a MLA from the Congress raised 33% of his election expense funds as loan, gift or donation. Similarly, MLAs from AAP raised 45% of election expense funds, SAD MLA raised 71% of his/her election expense funds like this. Likewise, a MLA from BJP on an average raised 60% of his election expense funds and a MLA from Lok Insaaf Party raised on an average 38% of their expense funds as loan, gift or donation.

Among the MLAs who have now been sworn in as ministers, Charanjit Singh Channi made the highest expenditure, followed by Manpreet Singh Badal in Bathinda Urban who spent Rs 24.67 lakh, and Razia Sultana in Malerkotla spent Rs 24.48 lakh. Interestingly, Congress leader Rana Gurjit Singh, who was the richest among all 1,145 candidates with assets worth Rs 170 crore, spent the least among the ministers. He spent Rs 8.36 lakh on his campaign. He holds the power department portfolio now.

Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has declared that he spent Rs 15.17 lakh (54% of the allowed limit), Navjot Singh Sidhu spent Rs 14.52 lakh or 52% of the allowed limit. Sukhbir Badal declared having spent Rs 10.77 lakh for victory.

Founder member of the National Election Watch and ADR, Prof Trilochan Sastry, said though the actual amount spent by the candidates cannot be established, it can be said confidently that it would be much more than whatever they have declared. "The reality is that only the rich candidates are contesting elections. To prove this, ADR plans to conduct a pilot study during the next Lok Sabha elections where the actual expenditure in 4-5 constituencies will be analysed," he said.

ADR also advocates public funding of the elections with the condition that there is check use of on black money. "In the Punjab elections, the demonetisation does not seem to have had any impact. The election culture in Punjab is similar to Tamil Nadu," he added.

ADR also analyzed the income of political parties from FY 2004-05 to 2014-15 based on their IT returns filed with the income tax department. In this duration, the Congress has shown the highest total income of Rs 3,982.09 crore. This is 41.96% of the total income of the eight main parties during the same time. BJP has the second highest income of Rs 3,272.63 crore, which is 34.48% of the total income of the eight parties.

SAD has declared Rs 101.81 crore income from all over India in the past 10 years, while party's 2004-05 audit report are not available yet. AAP registered with the poll panel in 2013, but is has already declared Rs 110.06 crore income between FY 2012-13 and 2014-15.

BJP has declared that Rs 917.86 crore was received via voluntary contributions of above Rs 20,000. These donations declared by BJP is more than twice such donations declared by the Congress for the same period.

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