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- Political campaign costs boon for some, bane for others
Political campaign costs boon for some, bane for others
Election time in India is exciting but also very expensive. One has to have deep pockets to sustain operations. The political parties may claim clarity in operation but suppliers have their own view point. Ajit John spoke to them all
It’s that time of the year when the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls. The people of the country listen to various politicians presenting their vision for the country which they believe will make it very attractive to investors and a heaven to live in. Generally, that’s the idea. The election process is one of the largest operations in the world. And very expensive.
In 2014, BJP solely spent around Rs 715 crore on the elections, while the Congress spent around Rs 500 crore. While this was the amount spent on elections overall, at least 50% of this was spent on advertising. The ability to reach the targeted audience and touch him or her is the crux of the entire battle. While on the national scene in India the numbers keep increasing dramatically what is the situation in Goa?
When it comes to finance and its sources, political parties like to speak off record. A member of the ruling party who was very involved in the negotiations and closure of deals for publicity said ever since T N Sheshan’s tenure as the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, things are fallen into shape. And with the strong regulations put in place, he said payments had to be done legally. Expenses had to be recorded. With regards to publicity material, he said the work was all done at the Centre. At the State level it was all about ensuring the volunteers were paid for food and fuel costs. Asked how much this was amounting to, he said he was not personally involved in it so he would not be able to provide any information. However according to people who have watched elections closely, they felt Rs 500-700 were paid to the volunteers. The party would ensure the payments would be done because at the end of the day, they were the heart and soul of the party. Coupled with this the party was also using social media very aggressively and smartly and had reduced on conventional advertising like banners and leaflets.
With regards the Congress party, Parag Raikar the man detailed to speak on such matters said all publicity material was printed in Delhi after a tender was passed. This arrangement held true for national and state elections. All the printing was done in Delhi. Last time however, it should be said the candidate from Margao printed publicity material of his own and distributed it in his constituency. The state units were otherwise not involved in such matters.
Now there are always two sides to a story. When the Herald spoke to the printers in the State, the reactions were one of casual indifference or of an interest to do business but on their own terms. Sayed Oduth a printer based in Panjim said till date he had not contacted the parties and neither had they. He felt with Lok Sabha polls; parties always depended on the Central office to take care of these matters. Then there was always the importance of chasing them for payments especially for work done during state elections. In the last state elections, the Congress he said had spent around Rs 11 lakh and the BJP in the municipal around Rs 4 lakh.
The granddaddy of them all Suraj.com were very clear with regards political work. Prakash said “You want me to do the work for you, make full payment and that’s it. Otherwise I am not going to want to experience nonsense again.”
In the last state elections, a very prominent politician gave him work. They had a working relationship going back several years. The order was given and the job completed. Prakash said “I committed the cardinal error of going to him after the results were declared and he flatly denied having done any work with me. I had an unpaid bill of Rs 6 lakh odd. I went to the bank, took a loan and cleared my outstanding’s in the market. I am disgusted and decided; money first is the best policy. I am not going to anyone, they know me, if they come, they will know my pre-condition.”
Perhaps the final word should go to Elvis Gomes the state convenor in AAP. He said all the publicity material was created and printed at the state level.
Gomes said “We have a few well wishers who are funding us and yes when we have meetings, we have a collection box where people donate as little as Rs 10 to Rs 500 and sometimes above. We don’t pay our volunteers any money to campaign unlike other political parties. We had printed leaflets before the code of conduct kicked in and some more after that.”
Despite all his claims, political observers said, even AAP had to pay its volunteers and that was the nature of this game. Costs will continue to increase and the limit of Rs 54 lakh placed on candidates in a State like Goa is easily surpassed.