GUWAHATI, March 10 � Though Assam has only 14 Lok Sabha seats, the cost of holding Parliamentary elections in the State is much higher than in other States having much larger numbers of seats as the State Government tried to create infrastructure with the money received for conducting the polls.
According to records available with the Ministry of Law and Justice, the cost of holding the Lok Sabha elections in the country in 1999 was Rs 948 crore and it increased to Rs 1,016 crore in 2004 and Rs 1,200 crore in 2009. Interestingly, despite having much less number of seats, the cost of holding the polls in Assam was third among all the States of the country.
The cost of holding the elections in Maharashtra, which has 48 seats, was the highest and an amount of Rs 155 crore was spent in that State in 2009. West Bengal spent the second highest amount of Rs 150 crore in holding the polls and the State has 42 seats in the Lok Sabha. Interestingly, Assam has only 14 seats and an amount of Rs 97 crore was spent in conducting the 2009 polls in the State. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of 80 seats in the Lok Sabha and the expenditure of conducting the polls in the state was Rs 69 crore. Similarly, the expenditure in other states having much higher numbers of seats than Assam could conduct the polls at much lower expenditures. Though the law-and-order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is far worse than in Assam, the total expenditure for conducting the 2009 polls in that state was only Rs 10 crore.
Talking about the reasons for higher poll expenditure in Assam, highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that as the entire amount used in holding the Parliamentary polls is reimbursed by the Government of India, the State Government decided to create some permanent infrastructure with the amount meant for holding of the elections.
Sources revealed that a number of computers were procured with election funds, while video conferencing facilities were created, which improved the performance of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. A number of circuit houses and Government guest houses, where the observers coming from outside the State were kept, were repaired and renovated.