The MLAs who won the December 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections spent on average Rs 27.10 lakh or 68 per cent of the expense limit on campaigning, a report prepared by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said on Friday.
Under the Representation of the People Act, winning candidates are required to file election expenditure statements within 30 days of results. In the case of Gujarat elections, the deadline was January 8, 2023.
An analysis of these affidavits by the ADR showed that the 156 MLAs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spent average Rs 27.94 lakh.
The 17 Congress MLAs spent on average Rs 24.92 lakh while the five AAP MLAs spent Rs 15.63 lakh, the report said.
For three independent MLAs, the average expenditure stood at Rs 21.59 lakh.
Individually, the BJP's Jayram Ganit (MLA from Tapi) declared the highest expenditure of Rs 38 lakh, followed by Laxman ji Thakor (Gandhinagar) and Kirit Dabhi (Ahmedabad) who declared election expesnes of Rs 37.78 lakh and Rs 36 lakh.
Samajwadi Party's lone MLA Kandal Jadeja declared the lowest expenditure of Rs 6.87 lakh, followed by Amit Chavda of Congress and Umesh Makwana of AAP at Rs 9.28 lakh and Rs 9.64 lakh, respectively.
Besides the usual heads of expenses such as advertising, public meetings and processions of star campaigners, campaign vehicles and workers, 20 legislators also said that they spent funds on virtual campaigns.
A total of 40 MLAs incurred expenses on declaring the criminal cases pending against them in print media, as required under the election rules.
BJP MLAs on average claimed to have spent 21.2 percent of money on public meetings and processions with star campaigners. The same stood at 5 percent and 3.9 percent in the case of Congress and AAP MLAs.
Independent candidates spent 30.5 percent of money on campaign materials.
Average expenditure on electronic media was around 1.5 to 2 percent.
The Samajwadi Party MLA spent the highest 38.4 percent of money on campaign vehicles.
As much as 77 percent of the funds received by the MLAs came from political parties, 16 percent of funds were raised by the candidates themselves, and seven percent of campaign funds were raised from other sources, the ADR report said.
As many as 25 MLAs declared that they received no funds from their party.
Independent MLAs bore on average 31 percent of their campaign expenses themselves. AAP candidates contributed 21.66 percent of own funds for campaigns and BJP candidates contributed 16.63 percent.
Congress MLAs used only 3.62 percent of their own funds for campaigning.
The expenditure limit for MLAs during the Gujarat assembly elections was Rs 40 lakh.
The ADR noted that details of campaign expenditure were not uploaded on the Election Commission's website for long after the deadline.
"The deadline for filing an election petition against any winner is 45 days after the declaration of results. Generally MLAs submit their election expenditure statements towards the end of the 30 day period. This leaves 15 days for any common citizen to file an election petition against a winner," it said.
"The deadline for filing an election petition should be increased so that there is more time to scrutinize election expenditure statements of MLAs and gather relevant documents," it said.
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