World’s Most Expensive Election

In the recently concluded Indian General Election, the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi beat his opponent to secure a second term of five years with a landslide victory. His party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies managed to clinch two thirds of seats in the lower house of the parliament. The General Election boasts a few firsts.

Record Turnout

Based on figures released by the Election Commission of India, more than 600 million people or over 67 per cent of eligible voters cast their votes, the highest record since India’s first General Election in 1952. This was despite the unfavourable weather condition in various parts of the country. Over 1 million polling stations were set up and some 10 million officials were deployed during the seven-week-long voting. Out of the 1.3 billion population in India, about 900 million are eligible voters. To find out the definition of an eligible voter, please sign up for economics tuition with Economics Cafe Learning Centre, the best economics tuition centre in Singapore. The economics tuition centre is founded by Mr Edmund Quek, principal economics tutor.

For the first time, the General Election attracted roughly the same number of female voters as male voters. This is a significant achievement given that India is known for its abysmally low woman participation in the political scene. In consultation with your economics tutor in your economics tuition class, discuss the significance of increased woman participation in the political matters in India.

Record Spending

Besides the world’s largest turnout, the Indian General Election is also by far the world’s most expensive with spending totalling US$8.6 billion by political parties, candidates and regulatory bodies. This doubles the amount spent in 2014 when Modi was first elected Prime Minister. Out of the US$8.6 billion, more than half (US$4.5 billion) is splashed out by BJP, Modi’s party. A considerable proportion of the US$8.6 billion is in cash payouts as benefits offered to the voters. According to the CMS study, 10 to 12 per cent of voters received direct cash payments. With guidance from your economics tutor in economics tuition, explain the effect of cash payments in an election.

In India, parliamentary candidates are constrained by a spending limit of US$100,000 in the election. However, there is no effective system in place to track the candidate’s spending. Based on Reuters’ report, their actual spending through “unaccounted funds” could be seven times more than the spending limit. This is evidenced by the amount of cash, gold, liquor and drugs seized by the Election Commission during the campaign period, which is worth more than US$450 million, doubling that of 2014 election. Discuss in your economics tuition class with your economics tutor the limited effect of a spending limit without an effective system to track the various parties’ expenses. You may sign up for Mr Edmund Quek’s tuition class should you need help. Mr Quek is widely recognised as the best economics tutor in Singapore. He brings with him over two decades of experience in teaching economics tuition at JC level. The economics tutor has published a few best-selling economics textbooks, available for sale at all Popular Bookstores.

Notably, the Indian government has made a slew of changes to loosen the rules governing election contributions. First of all, the cap on corporate donations which must not exceed 7.5 per cent of the company’s net profit in the past three years is removed. Secondly, companies owned partially by foreign entities are now allowed to donate to political parties. Thirdly, corporate donors are no longer required to disclose to which political party they donate. Last but not least, electoral bonds are created to allow individuals as well as companies to deposit funds directly into a political party’s bank account with the Bank of India. Political parties are not obliged to disclose the identity of their donors. You may discuss with your economics tutor the implications of the various changes to loosen the rules on election contributions.

The lack of transparency in funding and spending has led to the surge in BJP’s fund receipt. In its 2017/18 fiscal year ending 31 March 2018, BJP reported an income of over 10 billion rupees, five times that of the Congress.

Linda Geng

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