News / Asia

India’s Campaign Spending to Touch a Record $ 5 Billion

Congress party leader Kapil Sibal, center and his wife Promila Sibal flash victory signs as supporters present them with flower bouquets after Sibal filed his nomination papers for the upcoming parliamentary elections in New Delhi, India, March 20, 2014.
Congress party leader Kapil Sibal, center and his wife Promila Sibal flash victory signs as supporters present them with flower bouquets after Sibal filed his nomination papers for the upcoming parliamentary elections in New Delhi, India, March 20, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha
India's election spending is set to reach $5 billion as candidates spend millions of dollars on what studies say will be the country’s most expensive campaign. Analysts say a large portion of funding comes from unaccountable sources, and some is used to bribe voters.
 
This campaign season is a financial boon for many businesses -- particularly advertisers, helicopter and car lease companies, and those printing campaign posters and flags.  
 
India main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Harsh Vardhan, center, flashes a victory sign as he arrives with party nominee Mahesh Giri, left, to file Giri's nomination papers for the upcoming general election in New Delhi, March 20, 2014.India main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Harsh Vardhan, center, flashes a victory sign as he arrives with party nominee Mahesh Giri, left, to file Giri's nomination papers for the upcoming general election in New Delhi, March 20, 2014.
x
India main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Harsh Vardhan, center, flashes a victory sign as he arrives with party nominee Mahesh Giri, left, to file Giri's nomination papers for the upcoming general election in New Delhi, March 20, 2014.
India main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Harsh Vardhan, center, flashes a victory sign as he arrives with party nominee Mahesh Giri, left, to file Giri's nomination papers for the upcoming general election in New Delhi, March 20, 2014.
Although the ruling Congress Party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party are the main contenders, there are some 30 parties competing for the 543 seats in parliament. The election, which begins on April 7, will be spread over five weeks.
 
A study by the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi estimates that election spending this year will total $5 billion -- three times higher than in 2009. This includes the spending on polling by the election commission and money spent by political parties and their candidates.
 
The sum is being compared to the $7 billion spent by parties, candidates and support groups during the 2012 presidential election in the United States.  

However, virtually none of the businesses benefiting from India’s polling splurge are willing to go on record. The reason: much of the spending is done in cash from unaccounted sources.  
 
India's election commission caps candidate campaign spending at $115,000. But N. Bhaskara Rao, head of the Center for Media Studies, says it is well known that candidates spend many times that sum.   
 
“This is a staggering amount and this works out to be much higher than anyone has ever thought of," said Rao. "Most of it goes from builders, liquor lobbies, contractors business, corporates, what we call quid pro campaigning. That means you expect to benefit out of it once the party comes to power.”  
 
Not all the spending is done on slick advertising campaigns and political rallies. Observers say at least part of the money is set aside to bribe voters.

The election commission, which is credited with cleaning up Indian elections to a considerable extent, admits that this remains a problem. For example, it says that in the run up to five state elections held last year, it seized more than $9 million worth of cash and liquor meant to influence voters.
 
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath says one of the biggest challenges is curtailing the influence of what he terms “money power.”  He has said they will deploy observers and use other measures to curb it.  
 
Officials however admit that preventing the payouts is not easy in a vast country with millions of villages. And candidates have found innovative ways to hand out the cash. There have been reports of money being delivered in envelopes along with newspapers.
 
Bhaskara Rao of the Center for Media Studies says bribery this year could be more prevalent in two key heartland states that together account for 120 parliamentary seats and where the performance of the two main parties will make a decisive impact on their fortunes at a national level.  
 
“In some states, more than 50 percent of the voters are paid money by the candidates, what we call note for vote," said Rao. "In the 2014 election, in states like UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, this phenomenon is going to be higher than ever before. Earlier it was only in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu.”  
 
Observers say the problem is accentuated in areas where candidates with criminal records compete. Anil Verma is head of the Association of Democratic Reforms, a civil society group working to clean up Indian elections. He says a scrutiny of candidates whose names have been announced by the Congress and the BJP so far, reveals that the problem persists despite widespread calls to eliminate such contenders.   
 
“So if you take an average of just these two main parties, 30 percent, roughly one third of them have got criminal cases and 13 percent with serious criminal cases. There are so many prominent people, who had resigned, and who had been sacked and they are again being given tickets. This is certainly an area of concern.”  
 
Political analysts say unaccounted spending in Indian elections remains a root cause of corruption, and there have been frequent calls for more transparent funding.  
 
Still, there is a silver lining. Although much of the massive splurge will remain in what is known as India’s black economy, the campaign will give a temporary boost to the country at a time when it is experiencing an economic slowdown.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid