Rallying point for transparent funds
Evidently, election rallies are recession-proof. Or at least, in the Indian context, a slouchy growth curve does not in the least impact the brouhaha, the false grandeur and the shrillness of rabble-rousing that go on in the name of poll campaigns. Be it the sea of people, sponsored or not, thronging the rallies of Narendra Modi, or the flotilla of aam aadmi caps bouncing on the bobbing heads of Arvind Kejriwal supporters, funding clearly is not proportional to the state of the economy, the risible stagflation, the steep rise in fuel and utility bills that the consumers are being made to pay for from the holed pockets. But the political parties, especially their tallest leaders, are hell bent on proving their monetary might, flexing their financial muscle any which way in a game of ugly one-upmanship. Interestingly, money lavished on the election rallies is a matter of pride. Hence, cadres and leaders take special care to mention the hundreds of crores showered to make mega successes of the rallies – earmarking trains, thousands of jeeps, SUVs, luxury buses, tableaux, and an array of affiliated goods that make a slugfest of campaigns. Not to mention the tireless and upsparing tirades against fellow politicians, the rallies are usually named to indicate a cultural nationalist brazenness, each outshining the other in terms of self-glorifying victory pitches. For example, Narendra Modi’s Lucknow rally is called Vijay Shankhnaad, while the Patna rally was called Hunkar. Evidently, battle-bound leaders are finding it tough to outdo Modi’s political machismo, which others like Mulayam Singh Yadav or Rahul Gandhi are only countering with whimpering grouse in the form of doddering policy criticism.
Surely, a lot is getting lost in translation. While the hugeness of the rallies has almost managed to usurp the actual moot point, which is governance and ideology, only a handful of leaders are actually bothered by the nature of political fund gathering. Even as the Election Commission makes it possible to have more lavish rallies and hikes the amount spend per candidate to a maximum of Rs 70 lakh in big states, it is obvious that the actual expenditure far overshoots the stipulated amount. Humongous election spending, thanks to corporate lobbying and party funds, in an age of economic slowdown and common man’s monetary misfortunes reeks of a deep disconnect between the leaders and the voters. Moreover, most of the money spent on these rallies is not accounted for and the math hardly adds up. In this context, it is worth noting that Aam Aadmi Party candidates are banking more on peer to peer networking and word of mouth as well as individual donations rather than corporate deep pockets, who are waiting to cut a massive hole in our pockets as soon as the candidates of their choice, and propped up by their ill-gotten money, flex their way in to power. While it’s extremely important to galvanise people and prod them to go and vote, it must be done in a transparent and honest manner. The battle of perceptions cannot be won by hoodwinking many by the pecuniary smokescreen.