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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.