The way to my office is a 30-minute drive from home. All the way across the roads, the smiling face of Rahul Gandhi in grey imprints on white backgrounds and Narendar Modi’s saffron-tinted advertisements are hard to overlook. There are life-size banners, sky-high hoardings andcolourful wall posters serving their purpose of advertisement to thousands of passer-bys, every day.
Ironically, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has negligible paid marketing presence, instead the ‘Aam Aadmi’ leader has usually resorted to controversial remarks to remain in news. Whether you are watching the prime TV show or listening to radio, networking with peers on social media or watching a video on YouTube, political advertisements pop up in sporadic instances.
For a political party to be able to do that, it needs to lavishly spend money on advertisement campaigns. As these campaigns are vital in making or breaking the government, the money spent during these campaigns in print and electronic media is huge – even pronounced numbers of this may seem exaggerating.
In fact, a report published in the Hindustan Times claims that the BJP’s election budget is a whopping ?5,000 crores while the official spokesperson claimed it to be 700-750 crore rupees. The Indian National Congress which claims the BJP’s budget is nearly 10,000 crores confessed that it’s spending ‘peanuts’ in comparison. The AAP raised double-digit number in crores, but its actual budget is yet to be ascertained.
Contesting for municipal elections alone might take about 1.5 – 3 crore rupees, 5-6 crores for an MLA, and no upper limits for a Member of Parliament seat. Imagine now, for a governing seat in this elections, the prime ministerial candidate and its party must spend anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand crores by the time the polls are over.
Where that money comes from is a big question, although politicians and their backing parties usually sagely point to ‘party funds’ in response. While the allegations of politicians piling illegal money are not unusual, a closer take at the efforts to aggrandize their political influence during the elections, political parties are spending a lavish worth to ensure victory in the ensuing elections.
While money seems to be the biggest strength of the parties during elections, it’s also their biggest constraint. The Election Commission of India monitors the unauthorized surges in campaign funding, Padyatras, and perhaps even in print and electronic advertising, but the fact it’s governing the electoral activities of the largest democracy in the world makes the task a little impractical in execution.
While a party may whine about lack of funds to build damaged roads or implement an approved scheme, it won’t shy away from being a money-spinner during these election campaigns. The simplest gist is that a politician needs to be a money-spinner. He/she has to be keep the party workers happy and complacent to retain their loyalty, bear the mammoth expenditure incurred in Padyatras from their custom-made vehicles dipped in party colours to brochures and handouts for mass distribution, distributing money to the ‘needy’ while expressing ‘courtesy’ and engaging voters by advertising through print and electronic media.
In all, it’s a pricey affair and not for the faint-hearted and ‘honest’ politicians. There’s nothing except criticism and good advice (a rarity!) that comes free in the country where corrupt politicos have embezzled gazillion dollars of money in scams. Whether this on-going PR frenzy will change India for good post-elections, only time will tell. Meanwhile, rubbing hands in good anticipation seems the next best exercise after casting the due vote!