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A US-based expert has said that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections of 2019 will be the most expensive in Indianhistory.


"If the 2014 Lok Sabha elections costan estimated $5 billion, here is little doubt the 2019
election will easily surpass that MilanVaishnav, a senior fellow at a top American think-tank


The upcoming general elections in Indiawill be the most expensive in Indian history and perhaps one of the mostexpensive ever held in any democratic country, a US-based expert has said.


The Election Commission of India is soonexpected to announce its schedule for the polls to be held to elect 543 membersof the Lok Sabha.


Noting that the 2014 general electionscosted USD 5 billion, Vaishnav said it was not inconceivable that overallexpenditure will double again this year.


"The exorbitant cost of Indianelections has become a cardinal fact of the Indian political economy that iswidely acknowledged and lamented - including by politicians and their donors.But it is not simply the material outlays that grab one's attention, it is themanner in which the money flows," he said.


Vaishnav rued that in India there isvirtually zero transparency when it comes to political contributions.


It is next to impossible to either identifywho has donated money to a politician or party or to figure out from where apolitician has obtained his or her campaign funds, he said.


Very few donors are willing to disclosetheir political giving for fear of retribution should their preferred party notcome to power, he noted.


The system of electoral bond, brought in bythe current government, has not helped either, he argued. The system lackstransparency, he said.


Specific data can be hard to pin down, butcosts are rising in general as constituency sizes increase and more candidatesjoin the fray, said Simon Chauchard, a Columbia University lecturer who hasfollowed elections in India.


Social media spending is likely to bedramatically higher, surging to about 50 billion rupees from 2.5 billion rupeesin 2014, Simon said. His group-which bases its projections on field interviews,government data, contracts given out, and other research-also expects a jump inthe use of helicopters, buses and other transportation by traveling candidatesand party workers.


Indian politicians feel "you've got todo new things, and crazier things, and bigger things and louder things,"Mr Chauchard said. "It's a bunch of panicky candidates throwing moneyaround to voters but also to vendors selling all kinds of stuff useful in apolitical campaign."


Here's a look at where some of the moneygoes:


Can Goats Help Win Votes?


To attract a crowd, some politicians mayneed to offer a box of food filled with biryani or chicken curry that can betoo expensive for average citizens. That's not to mention money needed forfirecrackers, chairs, microphones, security and vehicles to ferry theparticipants back and forth.


Dummy Candidates


India's Election Commission has long warnedabout dummy candidates: nominating someone with the same name as a front runnerto confuse voters and split the vote.


In populous states like Uttar Pradesh,where a name can identify the caste or clan of a particular candidate, thistrick can be especially helpful. In 2014, actress Hema Malini was up againsttwo other Hema Malinis, the Hindustan Times reported.


But even fielding dummy candidates costmoney. The expense can go as high as 120 million rupees, according to aninvestigation by India Today magazine in 2016. Parties also register multiplecandidates to get around legal caps on how much an individual can spend, withthe most popular member getting most of the resources.


Campaign spending by political partiesaccounts for almost all India's election outlays. But the Election Commissionhas also faced large costs organising an election with polling stations runningfrom 15,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayas and one for a sole hermitdeep in the jungles of Western India.


India's budget has allocated 2.62 billionrupees to the Election Commission this fiscal year, a new high. Some of thatmay be used for elephants to carry electronic voting machines to relativelyinaccessible regions, and boats to ferry men and materials across the mightyBrahmaputra river in the northeast.