As Mumbai’s civic polls near, political parties find themselves battling not just each other, but also a cash crunch the notes ban brought upon them.
The demonetisation of high-value notes, a crack down on unaccounted money and the government’s push towards a cashless economy mean parties and their candidates are being turned down by long-standing financers.
But for the ruling parties, Shiv Sena and BJP, who want to retain power, cost-cutting doesn’t seem to be an option. They have earmarked sizeable budgets for their campaigns, even though traditional funding resources have taken a backseat. While the State Election Commission has set a limit of Rs10 lakh on election expenditure by individual candidates, rough estimates peg spending amounts at more than Rs20 lakh per candidate in all major parties.
“The expenditure is divided into two categories – on-record funding that is disclosed to the election commission and unofficial funding given by parties and raised by the individual candidates. Parties have set aside budgets for advertisements in newspapers, TV channels and outdoor hoardings. Besides the consolidated campaign, the parties also fund several candidates. Further, candidates raise funds on their own at the local level,” said an office bearer of the BJP, not wihsing to be named.
Opposition parties Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, however have cut down their campaign budgets immensely. Besides bad market conditions, not being in power in the state and Centre has hit them further.
“We have told candidates there will be no funding from the party’s side. We will only provide campaign material such as banners, posters, manifesto and flags. We have cut short our budget by 40%, as compared to the 2012 election,” said Sachin Ahir, Mumbai president of the NCP.
The Congress too is facing a financial crunch. Both Congress and NCP were in power during the 2012 BMC polls, and had given Rs10 lakh to every candidate at the time.
Not spending is not an option for the BJP and Sena that are fighting to gain control of the country’s richest civic body. “Both parties have booked full-page advertisements in all leading newspapers for voting day and two days prior to it. They will have six full-page and 10 half-page advertisements and video advertisements on Marathi and national channels for the BMC election. Both of them have created ad films that will run on channels in the coming few days. They have engaged leading advertisement agencies,” said an insider privy to campaign plans.
“They are vying to control the a civic body with an annual budget of Rs37,000 crore. It is a battle for survival for Shiv Sena and a matter of pride for the BJP to rule the BMC. The parties may leave no stone unturned to emerge the single largest party, and may pump in more money than estimated,” he added.
According to sources, the campaign budgets of BJP and Sena could go up to Rs30 crore to Rs 40 crore each. On the other hand, the Congress and NCP — who spent Rs22 crore and Rs10 crore respectively on media campaign in 2012, have cut short their budget to about Rs1 crore. The NCP has excluded print advertisements from its plan and has put the thrust only on TV, radio and social media.
“More the chances of a candidate winning, more is the amount spent by the candidates and the party. Candidates used to collect money from local businessmen, builders and some illegal businesses, but most of them have expressed their inability this time for funding in cash. The candidates are now engaging them with the task of fulfilling the demands of voters. Right from pity works of tiling, painting in housing societies to distribution of mobiles and tabs among youth, these are trending this election season,” said a BJP aspirant.