Veena Shinde, who is employed as a domestic help in Bandra, got her work schedule changed from the end of January to February 14. The reason: she will be part of the election campaign for different party candidates and in return she will get a plate of chicken biryani and Rs300 per day.
For Shinde, four hours of campaigning daily for 20 days will mean earning almost Rs6,000 —double her monthly income.
Like Shinde, hundreds of people in the city earn thousands during elections for being a part of a campaign or by casting a vote.
This means that candidates contesting on the 227 seats will be spending money over and above the Rs5-lakh cap fixed by the Election Commission.
Number crunching reveals that the unofficial cash flowing during the civic elections 2012 is estimated at anywhere between Rs700 crore to Rs750 crore.
Politicians across parties revealed that a candidate needed to have a kitty of around Rs20-25 lakh for the Mumbai polls. In fact, prominent candidates may end up spending up to Rs1 crore, say political workers.
According to the political workers, on an average, Rs2 crore to Rs3 crore is likely to be spent in each ward. Considering there are 227 wards in the city, the whole amount will be around Rs650 crore to Rs700 crore. This excludes the cost of advertisement campaigns, star campaigners, and campaign material.
For first timers or candidates who might not be able to afford such expenditure, the local MLA and the political party pools in. Apart from this, MLAs and political parties keep aside a kitty of Rs75 crore.
Political parties also get contributions from corporate players, approximately Rs5 crore from a big developer or a business house.
To get rid of competition, contestants pay off independents or try to buy off candidates. This amount may vary from Rs1 to Rs2 lakh for independents and up to Rs30 lakh for a serious contender.
While all this unofficial expenses are a known feature, it is not clear how the commission will keep tabs on it.
“We will have committees set up in every municipal corporation distributed over civic wards, which will keep a close watch on the expenditure in candidates. In case rules are being flouted, we will take immediate action,” said state election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan.