Political parties often offer argument that election expenditure limits are too meagre in wake of rising prices of essential commodities, but 72 per cent of Odisha MLAs managed to win their respective elections by spending less than 50 per cent of the expense ceiling fixed by the Election Commission of India during last election.
Based on the election expense declarations of 142 MLAs, the average amount of money spent by them in the elections is only about Rs.12.05 lakhs, which is 43 per cent of expenditure.
An analysis of election expenses of MLAs done by Odisha Election Watch (OEW) in association with Associate for Democratic Reforms (ADR) produces hilarious as well as unbelievable expenditure pattern in the Assembly elections.
While two MLAs have submitted that they have won elections without spending a penny on vehicles, four others have claimed that no expenditure was incurred in their public meetings and processions.
As many as 15 MLAs have stated that they have not spent any amount on campaign workers and an equal number of legislators have declared zero expenditure on campaign materials.
Biju Janata Dal MLA Golakbihari Naik has won his election by spending less than Rs.1 lakh. The analysis shows Mr. Naik spent only Rs.83,132 in the election with zero expenditure on printing material, campaign workers and advertisements in electronic and print media.
In his election expense statement, Dambaru Sisa, BJD MLA representing Chitrakonda Assembly constituency in Malkanagiri district, has submitted that he spent more than Rs.12 lakh in public meetings and processions, but he did not incur any expense on vehicles or campaign workers. Interestingly, the MLA did not even spend on campaign material and not take help of electronic and print media to highlight his personality during the campaign.
Radharani Panda, BJP MLA from Brajarajnagar, spent Rs.20.67 lakh, a big amount compared to average expenditure incurred by MLAs during campaign. Ms Panda spent Rs.1.69 lakh on campaign material. However, campaign workers have not been paid by her.
As many as 92 of 142 MLAs did not take any help of print and electronic media during the campaign.
The Odisha Assembly has total 147 legislators, expenditure statement of five MLAs including Tourism Minister Ashok Panda is not available, says OEW.
When asked majority of expenditure statements of MLAs sound unbelievable and far from truth, Ranjan Mohanty, coordinator of OEW, said: “We have just put up analysis of information available in the public domain. We have not verified the statements submitted by MLAs.”
“The expenditure statements are simply eyewash. ECI is also not serious about getting the statements audited by agencies. ECI’s non-action on these is only emboldening candidates,” said Rabi Das, veteran journalist.