Data available with the Election Commission shows that this time election expenses have been pegged at Rs 818 crore.
Thanks to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), which cuts down on the need for ballot papers, the Centre will spend about 7% less in 2004 compared with the Rs 880 crore it spent in 1999.
More than one million EVMs have been deployed in 700,000 polling stations across the country, replacing the previous practice of using ballot papers.
The rising cost of paper, printing and transportation of staff had led to a spectacular jump in election expenses over the years. In 1967, the expenditures stood at a meagre Rs 1.8 crore. But this jumped to Rs 11.61 crore by the next election in 1971.
Between 1971 and 1980 this expenditure grew at a rate of more than 100%, reaching Rs 54.77 crore in 1980. Between 1984 and 1991, the cost almost doubled from Rs 154 crore to Rs 359 crore.
It ballooned to Rs 597.35 crore in 1996. While the rate of increase in expenses declined to 12% between 1996 and 1998 at Rs 666.22 crore, it again rose steeply in 1999. There was a 32% increase in the expenses with the sum going to Rs 880 crore.