If traditional industries associated with elections are griping, where exactly will the money go, given that the Centre for Media Studies estimates the total poll spend at a whopping `30,500 crore?
Parties may perhaps opt for ‘direct cash transfer’ as they generally do, but in larger volumes.
Remember the infamous Tirumangalam formula when DMK strongman Alagiri oversaw the victory in the Assembly byelection by pouring in cash liberally. This time around, the Election Commission, plans to place apolitical ‘spies’ in each village to monitor the money, booze and biriyani flow, but trust the wily politicians to find ways to hoodwink them.
Another poll-related issue is raising funds — part and parcel of every election. To keep track of the channels through which money is flowing, particularly in the wake of the EC clamping down on liquid cash, the going will be tougher than ever.
The money managers in each party are busy chalking out plans on how to mobilise cash and distribution channels to keep the campaigning smooth. Party leaders agree that mobilising money, which is often unaccounted, through safe channels is a challenging task and every major political leader has his own team to handle the task. “Even a modest public meeting in a small town cannot be organised without spending at least `10 lakh. This is why every party is keen on ways they manage funds,” says a party functionary. While every party has a centralised fund for the campaign expenses, in each party the main responsibility lies with the candidates. For this reason, the financial capabilities of a party functionary always play a role in his selection of the candidate. “Either he should be a person capable of arranging money immediately or should have such people strongly backing him,” says a SB-CID officer, a wing of State police that collects intelligence about parties.
Each candidate will have a team which consists of trustworthy aides, taking care of the financial part of his campaign, be it managing funds or maintaining accounts. “Invariably, most of the candidates have their wives or close relatives as members in this team, even when they have many other close colleagues within the party. If money has to be transferred to different places, even then it happens only through the trusted group,” says another senior SB-CID officer.
With the Election Commission getting more vigilant about restricting the unbridled exploitation of money power and seeking to cap spending of each candidate within the limits, the task of transporting money is getting even more difficult. “Today, the most important sources of funds for political parties are those leaders who run engineering colleges. The amount money generated by them would obviously be unaccounted as they receive donations. As the vehicle checks are intense, such people are getting more careful. Sometimes, even trains were used to transport the cash,” said the officer.
Lodge Owners on Radar
Lodge owners and hoteliers are not a happy lot this time around. Most of them say that with the police intensifying security checks on their premises to keep in check anti-social elements and prevent untoward incidents, privacy among those who come to stay for reasons other than politicking has been lost. Most lodges in the city warn of the hovering police eye and warn their customers that privacy is the last thing they can expect in the next couple of months.
Mahendran, a lodge owner from Pallavaram, says, “The checks were intense when Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally was on. Many of our customers were those who had come to attend weddings and people visiting their relatives, or those in town for business. And they expect a stay free of intrusion, but in this season this is impossible”.
Another major problem, according to many lodge owners and hoteliers, is that while there is some increase in the number of customers when there are rallies nearby, the party workers who stay usually cause more problems than profit. “Most of them consume alcohol during their stay and also since they get a large number of visitors it affects other customers looking for a trouble-free stay,” says Madhavan, who manages a lodge at Anna Salai.
While the hotels and lodges seem to be making some profit during the elections, it is not worth all the trouble that comes with it, feel many hoteliers.