BENGALURU:The BBMP elections will see the candidates spending at least Rs 1,500 crore till August 22, the day the votes are cast.
The State Election Commission has fixed a maximum poll spending ceiling of Rs 5 lakh per candidate.
However, most candidates admit that the limit is unrealistic and want it to be raised.
“It is impossible to give a serious fight without spending at least Rs 50 lakh, unless the candidate has his own charisma to win the battle,” a candidate told Express.
“I spent Rs 50,000 when I contested the BBMP polls in 1996. But the scenario has changed since then. In the 2010 polls, there were many candidates who came to me and said that they spent up to Rs 3 crore. Most of them were real-estate businessmen. One can guess the kind of money being spent now. The spending is higher in the newly -added wards than the core city wards,” said former mayor and Congress leader Ramachandrappa.
Candidates from the three prominent parties — Congress, BJP and JD(S) — are estimated to spend at least Rs 2 crore each on an average. With 198 wards, the candidates of these parties are set to spend between Rs 1,000 crore and Rs 1,200 crore.
A BJP candidate told Express, “Earlier, only voters in slum areas used to demand cash. Now, the culture has spread to even the middle-class. Many demand money as if it is their right.
“They extract the price of their vote from all the three parties. Even after giving them money there is no guarantee of getting their vote. Those who refuse to pay lose any chance of getting votes,” he said.
With at least 1,500 candidates in the fray and many from small parties and independents, cash is set to flow. For many, especially those in slums and surviving on small-time jobs, it is the time to make some quick buck.
Even a conservative spending of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore from each of them would see the poll splurge cross the Rs 1,500-crore mark.
“There are many independent candidates who have the capacity to spend more than the candidates from leading political parties. For them money is not the issue, it is their personal prestige at stake,” says a former mayor from BJP.
The door-to-door campaign through groups comprising about 15 to 20 people cannot be arranged unless each one of them is paid at least Rs 200 to Rs 500 in cash per day apart from providing them with coffee, breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner expenses.
Party caps, T-shirts and other items need to be provided to them too.
The day does not end for male canvassers without a booze session at the local bars, admits a candidate, who is slugging it out in a ward under the K R Puram Assembly segment.
For many of the contestants, the spending had started well before filing the nominations as they were sure of getting the ticket.
“Arranging free pilgrimage trips to Melmaruvattur, Tirupati and Dharmasthala was a common feature in many wards to lure voters.
“Liberal donations for village religious fairs, cultural activities and youth associations are some of the means many candidates have been using to consolidate their vote-base over the last few weeks,” says a political activist, who is working as a campaign manager for a leading political party.