Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Gujarat: Poll spends to shoot up, SATTA TO COST WHOPPING SUM

Shivaji Sarkar

The Gujarat elections may cost about Rs 1000 crore to the nation in direct expenses by the Election Commission and political parties. The expenses would be about 250 percent more than 2017, as per Election Commission decision to allow candidates to spend more to match inflationary costs.
The election expenses give a boost to the local economy, who sell various kinds of buntings, flags, other gifts to voters, photographs of leaders and provide a number of services from vehicles, audio systems and other facilities for holding small and big meetings. Tea vendors and food caterers also earn quite a bit. The local artists also are given roles to entertain the audience. In a way, the poll expenses give support to a large section of small-time operators. But the larger shares now a days are pocketed by event managing units for providing package services.
Large expenditures go into telephone and internet connections and transportation of leaders and workers. The poll surveys sponsored and not also entail a significant expenditure.
Another interesting aspect is the betting at the satta bazar. It involves thousands of crores of investment.
The state government and the EC doles out contracts to the service providers. The election just does not end up as a political drama but involves a larger section of the society. In Gujarat, every bit is presented as a sophisticated event.
Actual expenses would be known after the polls but it is certain that the EC would spend Rs 450 crore in conducting the two-phase elections. The state’s chief electoral officer determines the final expenditure under the EC. Usually the figure exceeds the provisional allotment.
The state government allocated Rs 387 crore in the annual budget for 2022–23 for election expenses based on costs estimated by the chief electoral officer for the 2022 Assembly elections. The 2017 Assembly elections were supposed to cost Rs 250 crore, but the actual expenses were Rs 326 crore. Similar to this, in 2012, Rs 175 crore were estimated, but the actual expenses exceeded the estimated amount.
Expenses could go up due to the increase in the cost of remuneration to the election staff, increased logistics and vehicles costs, increased number of booths and polling stations.
In 2012, a candidate could spend Rs 16 lakh. It has now been raised to Rs 40 lakh. So, on an average if there are three candidates from three major parties BJP, Congress and AAP, the candidate expenses would accrue to Rs 218.4 crore for 182 seats. But in many constituencies, there are various smaller regional and state parties which too would be contesting. So the total expenses can be over Rs 400 crore.
Political parties take care of training each of their new candidates on how to manage the poll expense accounts so that the queries from EC could be avoided. The EC has large paraphernalia with squads, surveillance, income tax department, state police and even the state excise department for keeping tab on the minutest expenses. Even the cost of garlands and bouquets are added
The state excise department keeps tab of each of the sale at liquor jaunts. It is not easy for parties to entertain to booze. Often such entertainments are done under various other subterfuge sometimes funded by individuals. But the caution is that the officials should not get a scent of it.
The parties get funds from the electoral bonds and donations. In 2017, the central BJP collected Rs 160.7 crore and the Gujarat unit Rs 88.5 crore. The expenses shown to EC were Rs 115.02 crore by the central party and the state party spent Rs 15.84 crore. There were expenses of Rs 76.24 lakh on top leaders including three visits of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, for other leaders Rs 35.64 lakh was spent.
The central Congress party collected Rs 49.1 crore in 2017 and the state unit Rs 20.1 crore. The spending figures were Rs 12.4 crore by the central party and Rs 7.6 crore by the state unit.
The BJP vice president Gordhan Zadaphia has demanded that the expenses to be incurred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll rallies in Gujarat be added to the party’s expenditure while Congress sought more transparency in the poll process during their meetings with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar during his visit to the state. In many cases, these are added to the expenses of the candidates.
Congress central headquarters spent Rs 6.05 crore on travel expenses of star campaigners and visits of senior leaders such as Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Ashok Gehlot and others.
The BJP spent 2.5 times of its immediate rival. A major expense was on publicity. Overall, the BJP spent Rs 45.6 crore on media and advertisements, while the Congress spent Rs 8.68 crore. The BJP spent Rs 13.01 crore on procuring publicity materials such as hoardings, flags, arches, banners, stickers and so on compared to Congress’ Rs 1.30-crore.
The BJP also spent more — Rs 6.77 crore — on public meetings, rallies and processions, compared to Congress’ Rs 1.70 crore. The BJP campaign was launched with a sea plane ride by Modi at Sabarmati river.
These expenses were for the 45-day period or less during the elections. Actual campaigning in various modes begin much earlier. For the ruling party the state government expenses are not reflected.
Since this time prices of every commodity have increased many times, it is expected that the overall expenses by political parties would double. Easily, the total expenses would surpass Rs 1000 crore in Gujarat.
An interesting aspect is the satta bazar, or the betting on candidates’ fate. Though it has now become a national phenomenon but in Gujarat the state elections evoke special interest. The Phalodi-based satta bazar takes keen interest in the fate of each of the candidates. It is said that the candidates themselves sometimes create the satta phenomenon to boost their popular esteem to enhance chances of winning the polls. Presently the satta is throwing its phalanx with BJP.
The bookies have become active and are expecting a turnover of Rs 40000 to 50000 crore.
Apart from official expenses there would be about a moderate portion of the expenses that would possibly not be in white. But that is how elections are. Finally, the expenses may go beyond the normal assessments, which are also likely to jump up.

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