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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Cash-strapped Congress puts poll money on winnable seats

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 04, 2014
First Published: 23:57 IST(4/5/2014) | Last Updated: 01:48 IST(5/5/2014)

A few weeks ago, Congress strategists received a request from the chief of an ally party in a northern state for a chartered helicopter for the remaining stretch of his election tour.

The Congress poll managers, after assessing that the coalition has a “very good chance” of winning in at least 15 seats and that the partner party has been able to consolidate its vote bank against BJP, quickly arranged a chopper.

But, many of Congress’ own candidates may not be as lucky in terms of reinforcements in the high-pitched 2014 election campaign.

The party, widely anticipated in opinion polls to be losing power after a ten-year stint, has been forced to work with a tight campaign budget.

This cash-strapped state has compelled the Congress to be more careful and choosy in spending its resources on nominees. It is pumping in adequate funds in areas where it sees a chance of victory. But in places where the party has little hope of winning, Congress fund managers are treading cautiously.

Top sources added that most candidates in Seemandhra region had been denied ample finances, whereas their counterparts in Telangana region have received more money to campaign. In the internal assessment of the Congress, most of the seats in Seemandhra are “very difficult” to win in the backdrop of the local mood against the UPA government’s decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the party bagged 22 seats in the 2009 polls, the fund management this time is being done in a selective way.

“In some constituencies, where we have a good chance of winning, like Kanpur, Unnao or Barabanki, we are trying to provide sufficient funds,” said a senior strategist.

In Punjab too, the Congress reinforcements were on a higher side, while many nominees in Odisha—where the party is out of power since 2000—complained about dearth of resources.

The tightening of the poll budget also comes at a time when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has sharpened his attack on BJP over the latter’s campaign expenses.

“They (the BJP) do politics of two-three corporates, as they gift them ‘mota paisa’ (hefty sums). From where is the money for big cut-outs and posters coming?” Gandhi had questioned in Amethi recently.


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