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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.