Political parties spent Rs 573.24 crore in the five Assembly elections held in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in 2016, out of which the lion’s share was spent on publicity (Rs 256.79 crore) and paying lumpsum amount to candidates (Rs 212.54 crore), says an analysis by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit election watchdog.

Among national parties, BJP declared spending the highest (Rs 112.14 crore) in the five Assembly polls, followed by Congress at Rs 41.49 crore, while among regional parties DMK in Tamil Nadu declared spending the highest (Rs 97.34 crore), followed by AIADMK at Rs 64.72 crore. The State, which drew the highest poll spending by all parties is West Bengal, where state units spent Rs 110.62 crore.

Overall, the funds collected by the six national parties at Rs 287.89 crore were much lower than the amount spent during the five Assembly elections. Based on the details provided to the Election Commission, the regional parties said they collected only Rs 67.22 crore during the elections, but spent Rs 213.97 crore.

Interestingly, despite contesting four Assembly elections (Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal), Shiv Sena has declared that the party incurred no expenditure towards their election campaign in these States.

“The election expenditure reports of political parties contain information on the funds collected at the Central headquarters of the party as well as at the State level,” said an ADR release.

Among the state units, the political parties collected the maximum amount of Rs 84.30 crore from West Bengal as a cheque payment.

Cheques were the most preferred mode of collection and expenditure by all parties, forming 55.57 per cent of the total funds collected, and 75.32 per cent of expenditure. Cash collections made up for 44.43 per cent of total collections.

Among various heads, national parties spent the most on publicity at Rs 137.46 crore, with BJP spending the highest at Rs 87.28 crore. Among regional parties, AIADMK spent the maximum on publicity at Rs 55 crore.

The ADR analysis comes close on the heels of the outgoing Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi calling for more transparency in poll funding.

ADR, on its part, has demanded that it must be made mandatory for all political parties to submit their statements of expenditure in the format given by the ECI, within the prescribed timelimit. Also, details of all donors who contribute to national and regional parties exclusively for their election campaigns must be declared in the public domain.

Also, similar to the shadow observers of the ECI for monitoring the expenditure of candidates, there must also be observers for monitoring the expenditure of political parties, it added.