[Flights Of Fantasy]
[M Panging Pao]
The elections are on us with the announcement of simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Arunachal Pradesh on 11 April. The list of ticket contenders is unending, with the maximum demand for the ruling BJP’s tickets. There are many contenders for the Congress party ticket also. Recently, denial of tickets by the two national parties has led to the mushrooming of other parties like the NPP, the JD (S), the RPI, the JD (U), etc. However, there seems to be few takers for the ‘old’ parties like the PPA, the Trinamool Congress, etc.
It appears now that most constituencies are going to see quadrangular contests, with an average of four candidates per constituency. Including the two Lok Sabha constituencies, there are a total of 62 constituencies in Arunachal. Considering an average of four candidates per constituency, the total candidates would be 248. Considering an average expenditure of about Rs 10 crore per candidate, the total election expenditure by candidates comes to about Rs 2480 crore. Post election, there would be only 62 winning candidates. Assuming that they will recover the spent amount, about Rs 620 crore would be recovered. That leaves behind an amount of Rs 1860 crores which would be spent by the losing candidates, and this amount would be unrecoverable! Though these figures are indicative, they depict the use of colossal money power for elections in our state.
In the Arunachal Pradesh budget of 2018-19, the total budget outlay was Rs 19,291 crores, with a projected deficit of Rs 546 crore. The allocation for the education sector was about Rs 1785 crore, and for the health sector was Rs 1151 crore. The lost amount of Rs 1860 crore is higher that the budget allocations in the education sector, the health sector and triple the budget deficit. This amount is also bigger than the entire budget outlay for the Pasighat smart city project.
There are additional expenditures by the state election commission for preparation and conducting the elections. Besides, there are unaccounted expenditures by supporting individuals, organisations, monitoring organisations, etc. In addition, many working days are lost due to unavailability of government officials detailed for preparation and conducting the elections. Due to restrictions imposed by the Election Commission of India via the model code of conduct, many important policies are put on the backburner for almost two months.
All this leads to unaccounted financial losses to the nation and the state. Therefore the total amount spent in the state for elections would be much higher.
Some ways to curtail this colossal unwanted expenditure could be by introducing state funding of elections, or by introducing online voting with Aadhaar/biometric correlation. One of the root causes of corruption is the huge money required by political parties and candidates to contest elections. If the election expenditure is limited, the saved amount could be used for funding development projects, and would lead to reduced corruption. What should we opt for? The same system or change? The future of our nation and the state is at stake.(The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)