Money Matters

In one year the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] spent Rs 19 crore (Rs 190 million) on Google Ads to attract voters and highlight Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's achievements.

These advertisements were run across different Web sites, predominantly YouTube, from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023.

They were run mostly during the assembly elections held in different states last year.

The BJP spent Rs 7.2 crore (Rs 72 million) in Karnataka but lost the assembly election there.

In Rajasthan the party spent Rs 2.98 crore (Rs 29.8 million), and won the election.

In Madhya Pradesh, which too the BJP won, the expenditure incurred was Rs 2.81 crore (Rs 28.1 million).

They spent Rs 1.48 crore (Rs 14.8 million) in the Chhattisgarh assembly election and won, but after spending Rs 1.92 crore (Rs 19.2 million) in Telangana they lost.

In Assam and Meghalaya, the BJP spent Rs 66.4 lakh (Rs 6.64 million) and Rs 43.3 lakh (Rs 4.33 million) respectively.

In Tripura they spent Rs 34.5 lakh (Rs 3.45 million), and Rs 14.9 lakh (Rs 1.49 million) in Manipur.

Two advertisements were particularly shown more than 10 million times, incurring a media expenditure of Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) on each.

These advertisements were run during the Karnataka assembly election and in Kannada.

They were run from March 20 to May 1, 2023, days before Karnataka went to polls on May 10.

Surprisingly, the BJP's nearest rival in ad spend was not the Congress, but the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, which spent Rs 12.1 crore (Rs 121 million) last year.

The BRS spent 11.9 crore (Rs 119 million) in Telangana state and Rs 16.5 lakh (Rs 1.65 million) in Andhra Pradesh.

In Karnataka they spent Rs 270,000 and in Tamil Nadu Rs 160,000.

In Maharashtra they spent Rs 92,000 last year.

Three BRS advertisements ran over 10 million times each from November 24 to November 28 last year. Despite this heavy spend, the BRS lost to the Congress in the assembly elections.

The Congress spent less, just Rs 4.59 crore (Rs 45.9 million), but all of this money was restricted to Karnataka alone.

In Telangana which the Congress won, they spent a measly Rs 3,250 crore whereas the BRS spent a whopping Rs 11.9 crore and ended up on the losing side.

The BJP spent 1.92 crore (Rs 19.2 million) on Telangana elections, according to the Google Ads Transparency Centre.

The Congress spent no money on Google Ads for elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The Bahujan Samaj Party too tested the waters in this election by spending Rs 43,250 on Google ads.

 Election funding is a complex issue. How the parties collect funds and big companies donate to cultivate their relations with the persons in power deserves serious attention. Then the “opaque” electoral bonds scheme for funding political parties will ‘destroy democracy’ as it promotes corruption and does not allow a level playing field between the ruling and opposition parties. Advocate Prashant Bhusan, appearing for NGO Association for Democratic Rights (ADR), told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud that the electoral bonds scheme defeats the citizen’s right to be informed about sources of funding of political parties, which is a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.

Then parties in power resort to dubious means to utilise government funds to advertise their achievements with the sole purpose of influencing voters. Very recently, even Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party otherwise, a small party, running governments in Delhi and Punjab, has been issued a notice for recovery of Rs 163.62 crore for its political advertisements allegedly published in the garb of government advertisements. It can be easily guessed how much money big parties, rather ruling parties, spend for vote. Corporate funding of elections is an old disease and big companies will continue to grease the palms of the political stalwarts to secure undue business concessions.. In a way the licence and permit raj has not really ended!

[Contributed by SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF of Rediff News]

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Vol 56, No. 32, Feb 4 - 10, 2024