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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs