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Lok Sabha polls to cost more than US presidential elections

March 01, 2009 14:44 IST

At a staggering Rs 10,000 crore, the Lok Sabha polls this summer would cost more than what Barack Obama and others spent in the US presidential race. According to information available with the US Federal Election Commission, Obama and other candidates collectively spent close to US $ 1.8 billion (nearly Rs 8,000 crore) in the 2007-08 presidential elections. A survey conducted by Centre for Media Studies in India pegs the estimated amount to be spent on the Lok Sabha elections, which would determine the next government in the country, at about Rs 10,000 crore (US $ 2 billion). This does not include the cost of holding assembly polls in states like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

While the cost of US elections was spread over a year, India would see the massive spending in a matter of months. The estimated Rs 10,000 crore cost for the Lok Sabha elections includes about one-fourth or Rs 2,500 crore being spent through "unofficial money" or the cash to be paid to voters by the candidates, the CMS survey says. The latest presidential elections in the US has been billed as the most expensive ever, with cost doubling from the previous elections held in 2004. Similarly, the cost of general elections in India, according to CMS, is also set to more than double this year from about Rs 4,500 crore in last Lok Sabha polls and would be the highest in the history of the country.

According to the CMS study, the government spending would be about 20 per cent of the total expenses, including about Rs 1,300 crore by Election Commission and about Rs 700 crore to be spent by various central and state government agencies for purposes like photo identity cards, Electronic Voting Machines and polling booth. Various political parties are expected to spend about Rs 1,650 crore from their party funds, which would include about Rs 1,000 crore from the two main parties -- Congress and BJP alone.

In addition to spending by parties, candidates of the national parties are estimated to put in Rs 4,350 crore, while those from the regional parties are expected to spend another Rs 1,000 crore. As per the information available with the US Federal Election Commission, Obama topped the list of all Presidential candidates by spending over US $ 760 million --more than double the amount of about US $ 358 million spent by his Republican rival John McCain. Another Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spent about USD 244 million. According to another set of estimates for the US elections compiled by Washington-based think-tank Center for Responsive Politics, the overall cost of the 2007-08 US federal elections was USD 5.3 billion, including about USD 2.4 billion on the presidential race.

While the US figures are higher than the USD two billion estimated by CMS to be spent during the Indian elections, the polls here would still be expensive in rupee terms. As the US dollar was considerably weaker against the Indian currency during 2007-08, the US $ 2.4 billion spent on the US presidential elections, which got over on November 4, would have translated into a little below Rs 10,000 crore. This was the first time when the cost of the US elections surpassed US $ one billion-mark, while in India it was above this level even in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004. However, the rate of surge in election costs is almost similar in both the countries. The 2004 Lok Sabha elections had cost the country Rs 4,500 crore against about Rs 3,200 crore in 1998 and Rs 2,200 crores in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. The US elections cost about US $ 880 million in 2004, while it was about US $ 525 million in 2000 -- the two polls won by George Bush. The 1996 elections, won by Bill Clinton, had cost about US $ 425 million, while about US $ 330 million was spent on the 1992 elections, also won by him.

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