The cash-starved Punjab government may be struggling to meet its expenses but bank accounts of the ruling party will soon be overflowing with poll-time bounty.
The expenditure details furnished by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the Election Commission of India (ECI) after the 2009 polls showed party's coffers swelled by nearly Rs6 crore in less than three months in the run-up to the 2009 parliamentary polls as donations poured in, more in cash than cheques.
The six bank accounts of the party, which had a total Rs. 3.2 crore in March 2009, including fixed deposits of Rs. 3 crore and the interest accrued on them, jumped to over Rs. 9 crore in May 2009 after receiving donations worth Rs. 6 crore. Enough for the party to splurge a whopping Rs. 9.25 crore "officially" in the 10 parliamentary seats it contested.
And where did the money go? The details accessed by social activist Kamal Anand from the ECI website reveal Sukhbir Badal, who became the deputy CM in January 2009, spent half of the largesse on a hi-tech campaign by unleashing an ad blitzkrieg in the print and electronic media.
Delhi-based ad firm Brand Curry was paid a staggering Rs. 5.25 crore for advertisements in the print media highlighting the achievements of the Punjab government.
Companies with financial stakes of the ruling Badal family too made a windfall. The party paid Rs. 1.2 crore to the electronic media, including Rs. 24 lakh to G-Next media, a subsidiary of Sukhbir-owned Orbit Resorts and Rs. 4.9 lakh to Fastway Transmission. Other channels to receive the ads were Surya Entertainment, Dhaliwal Entertainment and Ad-advantage Media.
Another chunk of Rs. 1.3 crore was spent on ferrying the ruling family in chartered flights, including helicopters, aircrafts and special air-ambulances. Of this, Rs. 1.2 crore was paid to Air King Charters and Rs. 9.7 lakh to Orbit Aviations, another Badal-owned company, for providing luxury bus services.
Other expenses listed by the party are Rs. 44 lakh on printed material and `26 lakh on hoardings and banners.
Notably, of the total donations of Rs. 5.9 crore, only Rs. 1.7 crore was received by the party as cheques and demand drafts. Post polls, the party showed Rs. 46 lakh as the closing balance in its bank accounts.
Though poll expenses of individual candidates are capped - it was Rs. 25 lakh for Punjab in the 2009 polls -
there is no cap on party expenditure. According to officials in Election Commission, putting a limit to poll expenditure of political parties was part of the proposed poll reforms but it has not yet been implemented.
Individual candidates furnish details of their poll expenses to the returning officer who submits it to the Election Commission.
SAD cash meter
Amount in party's bank accounts (before polls): Rs. 3.2 crore
Donations received: Rs. 5.9 crore
Total official poll expenditure: Rs. 9.25 crore
Print ads (Brand Curry): Rs. 5.25 crore
Air travel (Air King Charters): Rs. 1.2 crore
Luxury buses (Orbit Aviations): Rs. 9.7 lakh
Electronic ads: Rs. 1.2 crore
G-Next Media: Rs. 24 lakh
Fastway: Rs. 4.9 lakh