PM Modi Led BJP Spend A Whopping $4.5 Billion On 2019 Election Campaign: Reports

Elections in India are over and the ruling BJP has emerged as the biggest spender. As per estimates from the CMS, political parties in India spent a whopping $8.65 billion in the recently-concluded general election, making it twice as expensive as the one in 2014. This report was published by Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

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The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the magnanimous spender, accounting for 45-50% of the overall expenditure, compared to Indian National Congress’ 15-20%, CMS’s report, which was based on field analysis, said. Poll expenses in India’s national elections have been spiralling over the years as parties spend generously on publicity, logistics, and even distributing cash for votes.

Election year Estimated expenditure
(Rs crore)
(in %)
1998 9,000 30 20
1999 10,000 31-40 25
2004 14,000 35-45 30
2009 20,000 40-45 35-40
2014 30,000 30-32 40-45
2019* 55,000-plus 15-20 45-50
*includes expenditure on assembly elections
Source: CMS

“Going by the current spending figures, expenditure in the next 2024 general election could cross Rs1 lakh crore,” said N Bhaskara Rao, chairman, CMS. “The mother of all corruption lies in spiralling election expenditure. If we are not able to address this, we can’t check corruption,” added Rao.

Favourable policies

The higher expenditure in the 2019 general election has a lot to do with India’s political funding policies becoming more liberal, claims CMS.

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Another policy change was the 2018 amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which exempts foreign funds received by political parties from scrutiny.

The easy money resulted in an average expenditure of Rs100 crore per constituency in the recent general election, revealed the CMS report. This estimate far exceeds the election commission of India’s stipulated cap of Rs50-70 lakh per candidate. 

A higher share of the poll expenses is now also being borne personally by the candidate, given the growing number of millionaires contesting elections. In some constituencies, individual candidates spent more than Rs40 crore.

Spent by share (%) Amount (Rs crore)
Candidates 40 24,000
Political party 35 20,000
ECI/government 15 10,000
Media/sponsors 5 3,000
Others/Industry 5 3,000
Total expenditure 60,000
Source: CMS

Some of this expenditure was in the form of cash-for-votes. Voters were offered Rs100 to Rs1,500 in many places. “The amount distributed to voters in each constituency was decided on the basis of how keenly the election was being fought,” according to CMS.

However, freebies came in other forms, too. “Pilgrimage and foreign trips were offered to select groups of voters. This was a new way for canvassing and seeking community votes,” the think tank said.