Elections 2019: Your one vote was worth Rs 700
The BJP-led NDA expended half of the total Rs 55,000+ crores spent in 2019 polls
The 2019 Lok Sabha election was the most expensive election ever. A report released by the Centre for Media Studies reveals that on an average, nearly Rs 100 crores was spent per constituency and about Rs 700 per vote.
This brings the total national spending to a total of Rs 55,000-60,000 crores. Interestingly, this equals the budget allocated for the flagship rural employment MGNREGA under which 7.74 crore individuals got work for an average of 50.48 days in 2018-19.
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, Modi government’s flagship scheme, promised an annual assured income of Rs 6,000 to about 14.5 crore farmers who own up to 2 hectares of farmland. The additional Rs 60 thousand crore package would perhaps have covered a portion of landless and tenant farmers as well.
And just to put this amount into perspective, you could’ve built:
- 49 new IIT campuses (considering one IIT campus costs Rs 1,167 crore).
- 52 new AIIMS campuses (considering one AIIMS campus cost Rs 1,103 crore).
- 106 new permanent IIM campuses (considering one IIM campus costs Rs 539 crore).
- 128 Mars missions (considering one mission costs Rs 450 crore) and 72 Chandrayaan-2 (Moon) missions (considering one mission costs Rs 800 crore).
The three-month long campaign saw the political parties experiment and (successfully) try innovative ways to lure voters, from blatant, direct bank transfers to sponsoring pilgrimages. A total of 902 million voters were eligible to vote this time.
The polling was held in seven phases and it stretched for a period of 75 days—from the day of announcement of the elections, to the day of counting.
“Throughout the campaign period, news channels showed vividly and repeatedly of confiscation of cash, gold, silver, liquor, etc. in transit. The value of these was more than twice of what was confiscated during the 2014 poll,” the report says.
The first of a series of advertisements run by the Election Commission of India in daily newspapers had the banner: “my vote is not for sale” and “any such sale is betrayal of democracy and also a punishable offence with imprisonment.”
“That advertisement was however not followed up with any actions to demonstrate the claim of ECI,” alleges the report.
The report places a part of the blame on the fact that the government allowed anonymous contributions to political parties this election.
“The other development which contributed for increased poll expenditure in 2019 include the Government initiated changes. These include introduction of electoral bonds to facilitate contribution of corporates for poll funding in anonymity, removal of ceiling on corporate contribution (up to 7.5 per cent of three-year average profits), allowing contribution of foreign corporate in India for campaigns,” the report says.
Another major, and new, source of expenditure this election period was through costs for middle-men. A normal, but distinctly new trend, the CMS study notes that this expenditure was often initiated at the behest of the candidates themselves. The middle-man could even be a functionary of another party.
This big fat Indian election was powered by the rich Indian corporate moguls. It’s no surprise that their darling Bharatiya Janata Party received 12 times more the total political donations declared by six national parties, including Congress, ADR data shows.
The ADR report had found the total income from unknown sources of the BJP to be Rs 553.38 crore (80 per cent of the total). This amounts to over four times the income received by five other national parties—the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India—combined.
Electoral bonds were introduced in the budget for the financial year of 2018 as a battle against black money in political funding. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, had in 2017, argued that since the electoral bonds route political funds through the formal banking channel—and that every political party has to disclose how much it received—they would bring transparency into political funding.
Two years down the line, the problem persists. There’s a fatal flaw: the anonymity of donors (how much they donated and to which party).