The coming Lok Sabha elections are “lopsided” and there is no level playing field, says the Congress party which fears his party may also not get much media exposure ahead of the big battle…writes Anurag Dey
“Where is the money, it has all been amassed by the BJP. They are sitting on a mountain of money and have cornered all the fleet (of private chartered aircraft),” senior leader and Congress Publicity Committee member Anand Sharma told IANS.
“The 2019 elections are lopsided and not on a level playing field. The BJP has an enormous treasury which will be utilised buy out airtime, print-space, social media space, bill boards and even mobile marketing avenues. In those terms we are way behind,” said Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha.
Besides a deluge of advertisements in prominent newspapers endorsing Modi governments various schemes, the BJP, also had been the number one advertiser on television in November last during the run-up to Assembly elections in five states.
“The BJP’s political desperation is now out in the open and it can go to any extent and do everything in its capacity to thwart the opposition.
“Part of those frantic efforts will be booking grounds, auditoriums and vehicles, blocking hotels and motels. They may even go to the extent of buying out vendors who have a big role in supplying campaign and election infrastructure,” said Jha.
Another party leader said the Congress was “nowhere near” the BJP in terms of advertising.
“The Prasar Bharti is autonomous only for name sake. Besides, a large number of media houses are either owned or controlled by Modi’s cronies. Getting space on TV has become difficult and perhaps unaffordable,” he said.
Since coming to power at the Centre in May 2014, the BJP’s financial clout has grown enormously and with the introduction of electoral bonds, the party has been raking in the ‘moolah’ (money) invariably declaring the highest annual income of all parties.
In 2016-17, the BJP declared an annual income of Rs 1,034.27 crore nearly double of the Rs 570.86 crore, it declared in 2015-16. For the year 2017-18, the BJP declared a total income of Rs 1,027,crore and spent over Rs 750 crore of it in the year.
According to the data by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the BJP cornered over 93 per cent of donations of above Rs 20,000 pocketing Rs 437.04 crore, which was 12 times more than the rest six national parties.
It also amassed over Rs 553 crore as income from unknown sources in 2017-18 which was four times the aggregate of other national parties.
The ADR put the income of the national parties for 2017-18 at Rs.1,293.05 crore, of which the BJP had declared Rs.1,027.33 crore for the period.
The income and expenditure of the Congress party for the 2017-18 was not known as the party had not submitted its audited reports to the Election Commission, the last date for which was December 17 last. The party in 2016-17 had declared an income of Rs 225.36 crore.
Besides the BJP’s deep pockets, the Congress has also to contend with ministers, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, using government podiums to canvass for the party, Sharma said.
“As a Prime Minister, Modi holds the record of wasting public money on election campaign. In flagrant violation of conventions and norms, Modi and his ministers have always used government podiums for BJP propaganda as well as to display their vitriol and despise for the Congress,” he said pointing to numerous instances where Modi, while speaking in government programmes, has attacked the Congress and the opposition.
Flush with resources, the ruling BJP seems to have already cornered most of the campaigning resources even before the mega political battle for Delhi starts to unfold.
Struggling to get helicopters to ferry its leaders or grounds and auditoriums for hosting rallies and mass meetings, the Congress says it is facing a severe handicap on this front too.
Sharma could not hide his exasperation over the party’s struggle to get choppers. “Where is the money. They (BJP) are sitting on a mountain of money and have already blocked aircraft charters and helicopters in advance,” he complained.
With the BJP in power in a large number of states, the Congress is also apprehensive of not getting permission for rallies or mass meetings from the respective state governments.
Incidentally, the BJP itself has been at the receiving end of this tactic often employed by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal.
The Banerjee administration has on several occasions denied permission for BJP President Amit Shah’s rallies leading to either cancellation of the events or the party having to take legal recourse.