`Candidates to spend at least Rs 500 crore in Kerala polls`

More than Rs 500 crore will be the barest minimum to be spent on election expenses by candidates of the three major fronts in the April 13th Kerala polls, an expert said.

Updated: Mar 06, 2011, 21:10 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: More than Rs 500 crore will be the barest minimum to be spent on election expenses by candidates of the three major fronts in the April 13th Kerala polls, an expert said.

Though the main fight in all the 140 seats will be between the ruling Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front, the Bharatiya Janata Party will also try its best to make its debut in the Kerala assembly.

KJ Joseph, professor of economics at the Centre for Development Studies said that the figure of Rs.500 crore could well be the bare minimum because the permissible maximum amount for each candidate has been fixed at Rs 16 lakh.

"The pattern of campaigning has changed and today the door-to-door campaigner has to be energised and a good amount would be spend on these people. The direct visible impact would be a surge in sales of liquor," he said.

Though the expense limit has risen from Rs 10 lakh in the previous assembly poll, a veteran leader said it seemed that this amount would not suffice.

"A giant portion would go for printing leaflets, posters and the recently popular flex boards. It is hugely impossible that even Rs 16 lakh, the permissible amount this time, would be enough. Anyway, we will wait and see," said PC.George, vice chairman of the Kerala Congress (Mani).

A five-time legislator, George recalled that when he first participated in an election, in 1980, the maximum permissible amount was only Rs 5 lakh.

However, most of the funds used for printing publicity material will flow out to neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

"What is sad is that more than half of the campaign expenditure is printed material and of this more than 80 percent goes to the printing presses in Tamil Nadu especially Sivakasi and of late, to presses in the Mangalore area (Karnataka) because printing in our state is so expensive. Agents from these areas have already arrived to seek business," said a former election agent in Kochi who did not wish to be identified.

Apart from publicity material and on door-to-door campaigners, another major expense would be for high-voltage sound systems that have to be there at main points in each constituency and of late, the tend is for playing specially-composed songs promoting the candidates and their parties.

"Sound is a major campaigner and the more a candidate`s name is announced, the better it is. Till recently it was just naming the candidates but now popular film songs are now re-composed for this purpose. This has clicked for many and today more and more candidates use this mode of campaign," said J.Rajan of Kottayam, in the business of hiring sound system equipment.

However, election officials will be carefully scrutinising expenditure.

Chief electoral officer Nalini Netto said that this time every candidate has to open a separate bank account for his expenditure in the election campaign.

"It would be through this bank account that every candidate has to account for all the receipts and payments. Small amounts can be paid out through cash, while bigger amounts have to be paid out through cheques. Bank accounts can be opened in the name of the candidate or their election agents. The candidates will have to submit their expenditure statements to poll officials every 21 days," said Netto.

Poll officials will also be on alert and would go around every constituency to keep a tab on expenditure by videographing the campaign process of every candidate.