Polling is on in one of the most dramatic, high-pitched elections of this year – the Gujarat state legislative elections. Do state Vidhan Sabha elections justify the hype that this western state is currently drawing? No matter what our individual opinions are, the leading parties in the country are looking at this as the beginning of the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. To use Bollywood inspired terminology, 2017 Gujarat state elections is the trailer to the 2019 general elections mega release. The flick, however, shall be only as good as the production budget is. “How much are political parties spending on the Gujarat state election?” Now, that is the question that most of us Indians want to know.
EC Guidelines on Election Expenditure Disclosure
The exact amount spent by both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) – the two leading parties is not yet known. According to the guidelines of the Election Commission of India (EC), all the parties which field candidates in any election held in the country are required to submit the complete statements of their expenditure to the EC. In case of the Lok Sabha elections the parties will have a period of 90 days to submit their expense statements and in case of the state assembly election, the parties have 75 days. The EC then makes this disclosure public by putting it up on its website. The EC does not place any restrictions on the expenses incurred by the political parties for the elections but it does cap on the expenses incurred towards each individual candidate (in case of state legislative assembly elections) at INR 16 lakh.
It seems we will need to wait a while before we know how much either party, or even the new entrant AAP, has spent on the ongoing elections. In the meanwhile let us take a look at the spending of these two parties in 2012.
2012 Gujarat Election Spending
According to news reports, the BJP incurred election related expenses amounting to INR 152 crore in the state of Gujarat during the 2012 elections. The INC was not too far behind with a total election spending adding up to about INR 117 crore. This seems to be a mammoth figure when we look at the total funds that were collected for all the 7 state assembly elections held in 2012. 13 different parties contested these 7 elections and together claimed to have collected funds amounting to INR 695.28 crore. This only goes to show how important Gujarat is considered to be as an electoral battleground.
Being the party in power in the state, BJP has the added advantage of spending public funds on developmental causes close to the elections as well. In the month of October, even as there had been a delay in the announcement of poll dates, the BJP led government headed by CM Vijay Rupani announced sops worth crores of rupees for the state. This includes a drinking water provision project worth INR 165.75 crore. The Sursagar Lake was also promised a facelift worth INR 38 crore. Add to this the central government’s announcement of projects worth INR 2000 crore in October and the inauguration of the INR 650 crore initiative – the RORO ferry service and we know how the voters of Gujarat are being wooed.
The 2017 state legislative assembly elections being held in Gujarat are touted by many as a closely contested battle. The INC is stressing on various issues including high unemployment rates, dissatisfaction among the SC/ST and OBC residents of the state, high rural poverty figures etc. Rahul Gandhi, who has recently been elevated to the position of party president, is himself leading the campaign in the state. The BJP, on the other hand, is going in for a dramatic display of growth and development in the state. The PM, a charismatic orator, along with party president and chief strategist Amit Shah, is leading the local leaders in the election campaign. The AAP is also trying to carve out a niche in the state thereby puncturing the possibility of another “Modi wave” in 2017. The changing dynamics of the political scene in Gujarat is very interesting. What is important for the people, though, is the outcome of these polls which are likely to be announced on 18 December.