A whopping Rs 30,000 crore is likely to be spent by the Government, political parties and candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, making it by far the most expensive electoral exercise in Indian history.

The projected expenditure to elect the 16th Lok Sabha is set to rival the $7 billion (approximately Rs 42,000 crore) spent by candidates and parties in the 2012 US presidential elections.

A study carried out by the Centre for Media Studies on poll spending says “unaccounted for” money pumped in by “crorepati” candidates, corporates and contractors has pushed up the expenditure to elect 543 MPs.

Of the estimated Rs 30,000 crore, the exchequer will spend Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 crore to hold the electoral exercise for the 16th Lok Sabha.

While the Election Commission is likely to spend around Rs 3,500 crore, the Union Home Ministry, Indian Railways, various other Government agencies and State Governments will spend a similar amount to put in place means to ensure free and fair polls.

“But the final figures will emerge after the poll process is on. Money will be debited to the EC account through book adjustments by various agencies,” explained a senior Government official.

The study says the recent decision to hike expenditure limits for Lok Sabha elections to a maximum of Rs 70 lakh and a minimum of Rs 54 lakh, is one of the reasons for poll spending likely to touch the Rs 30,000-crore mark.

According to a rough, unofficial estimate, after the hike in the poll expenditure cap, candidates in the fray for 543 seats alone could spend nearly Rs 4,000 crore in the LS polls.

“Till recently, political parties used to spend more during the elections. Now, the trend has changed with candidates in most cases spending more than the parties. Now where is this money coming from. It is coming from crorepati candidates, corporates and contractors,” Centre for Media Studies Chairman N Bhaskara Rao told PTI here.

The CMS study claims that while Rs 2,500 crore was spent in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, the amount jumped to Rs 10,000 crore in the 2004 polls.