iconimg Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Press Trust Of India
New Delhi, April 08, 2014
At a time when major political parties are spending crores of rupees on big-bang poll activities, small political outfits are fighting it out on shoe-string election budget ranging from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 50,000 – the cost of a two-wheeler in the country.

Most of these parties, which have mushroomed in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls, say they fight will the elections out of "passion" and financial losses they suffer mean very little to them. Some even campaign door-to-door to raise funds for their expenditure during the elections.

Parties like the Vishva Shakti Party, Braj Vikas Party, Bharat Vishal Party, Poorvanchal Rashtriya Congress, Samyak Parivartan Party and Bharatiya Sarvodaya Kranti Party are up against the giants this election.

And there are around 12-15 such parties contesting for Lok Sabha seats in the capital alone.

Many of them claim to be active in politics for years now, while some have pulled up their socks and are vying for Lok Sabha seats for the first time in the 2014 general elections.

Their budgets may be small, but that has not stopped them from taking on the big-wigs in the political arena.

Hitherto unknown Jai Maha Bharat Party which has no specific budget of its own, has fielded its candidate Mohd Afaq against Union law and telecom minister Kapil Sibal and BJP's Delhi unit chief Harsh Vardhan from the Chandni Chowk area.

"My party has asked me to contest from this area. This is my first time. The party has given me no money to spend. Till date, I have spent Rs. 25,000-30,000 approximately from my own pocket. I am using photocopied pamphlets to save money. I am putting my best foot forward to spread awareness about our party's existence," said 49-year-old Afaq.

These parties and their candidates, however, admit their chances of winning are feeble. They maintain that it's the "passion and determination" to change the society that keeps them in the fray.

"I know that I can't win the election, not at this stage at least. But I will try to make a difference. I am also well aware of the financial loss I will undergo. But, at least I will be able to influence a handful of people," Afaq said.

Shakeel Ahmed, another candidate of the party, says despite losing the security deposit of Rs. 25,000 and other expenses going in vain previously, the party has never considered losses a waste, but terms them as struggles.

Ahmed, the 32-year-old candidate who is eyeing the East Delhi constituency, is up against Sandeep Dikshit (Congress), Mahesh Girri (BJP) and Rajmohan Gandhi (AAP), among others.

The government recently cleared a proposal of the Election Commission to raise expenditure limit from Rs. 40 lakh for Lok Sabha elections up to a maximum of Rs. 70 lakh, allowing candidates to spend more on their poll campaigns.

This happened after major political parties of the country argued that current limits were too meagre to finance poll-related activities in the backdrop of rise in prices.

However, candidates who are not backed by major parties say that the Rs. 70 lakh amount is too much for a country like India.

Another small political party, Atulya Bharat Party, has a total budget of Rs. 50,000 collected by the contesting candidates themselves.

Atulya Bharat Party candidate Jagmohan Singh says, "Using such huge amount for campaigning is a waste of resources. Our party didn't give us any money. All the arrangements have been made by the candidates themselves."

"Atulya Bharat Party is active in politics since 2008 but this is the first time when we are contesting in Lok Sabha polls. We don't intend to spend such an amount (Rs 70 lakh) even if its available."

Other than the candidates of Jai Maha Bharat Party and Atulya Bharat Party, many claim that they are financially ill-equipped to compete against their big-shot counterparts.

Naya Daur Party candidate Naveen Chandra says the defeats in Delhi assembly polls in 2013, didn't shatter his party's aspirations and they are now eyeing a Lok Sabha seat.

"Our party is active since 2008 but we are making our Lok Sabha polls debut in 2014. The party has no fixed funds. It works based on the small amounts of cash received through door to door campaigns. Spending lakhs or crores of rupees would never help a party win elections," says Naveen, who is contesting from New Delhi seat against Ajay Maken of Congress and BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi among others.

Agar Jan Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, National Loktantrik Party, Ambedkar National Congress and Asankhya Samaj Party are some of the other small parties fighting the elections this year.

Apart from these, 58 candidates are contesting independently for Lok Sabha seats in the national capital.