The world’s largest democratic election is already in the process. Around 900 million people are eligible to vote, 53 million for the first time. It is not only the 'largest democratic exercise' in history, but it is also among the world’s most expensive. The cost of ensuring democracy is increasing day by day. From 1951 to 2019 the expense per vote has increased many folds. One should not take it lightly while thinking about voting.
The irony of the matter lies in the fact that the Election Commission (EC) puts expenditure limit as only Rs. 50 lakh to 70 lakh per candidate to campaign for his/her election. The configuration of elections has changed post-independence. Now the mode of transport is no more the ‘Paidal Yatras’ but helicopters have taken over it. The mode of advertisements have also changed in this electronic age; now they have their own websites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter handle over the internet and a hefty sum is spent over them.
There’s no denying the fact that elections are an expensive affair in India. In 1952, Rs 10.45 crore was spent on conducting the first general election by the government. The expenditure was less than Rs 100 crore till the 8th general election in 1984-85.
The expenditure crossed Rs 500 crore for the first time during the 11th general election in 1996 and it crossed Rs 1000 crore during the 14th general election in 2004. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the cost to the exchequer was Rs 1114.4 crores. In 2014, Lok Sabha elections were most expensive entailing a cost of Rs 3870 crore to the national exchequer.
Regardless of the ubiquity of various offers and favours, a number of factors explain why campaigns are getting more expensive.
First, a slow and steady increase in the size of various constituencies may play a major role. By March 2019, the voter size in the country already swelled by a record-breaking number of 52.6 million. This increase is because of the post-Millennia’s — the ones born at the dawn of the 21st century. They have come of age at a crucial time and no political party can afford to ignore. Simply, increasing populations require candidates to spend more.
Secondly, in the new age of electronic media, there are changes in campaigning strategies. While radio and television have emerged as the preferred traditional media platform, all political parties have gone beyond it this year. A series of amusing videos, which entered into people's screens through WhatsApp and YouTube, which increase the cost of the campaigning.
Thirdly, and most importantly, a steady rise in the number of candidates and competition has sparked a race in campaign spending.
How to reduce the cost of elections:
To reduce the overall cost of conducting the election, we should think about One Nation One Election. The basic idea behind this concept is to conduct a single election for the Lok Sabha, the State Legislatures and the local governments in place of series of elections done regularly over a period of time. This concept is increasingly growing popular within India as many eminent political leaders have put forth their views over its application within India, which includes Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India), former President of India Pranab Mukherjee and also Ram Nath Kovind (President of India).
In Indian democracy, the number of candidates has been increased, political competition has also increased and the cost of campaigning has also amplified. ‘One Nation One Election’ is a much-awaited policy, which after implementation shall completely change the electoral scenario in India. Hence for this general election, vote wisely to safeguard the democratic process in India.
(The article is co-authored by Meenakshi. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Political Science from Amity University)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)