Assembly Polls: Will this be the first ‘cashless’ election?
Will this be the first ‘digital election’ in the country with all payments made through banks and financial wallets? Parties, even the BJP, do appear cash-strapped in Uttar Pradesh
At least one Uttar Pradesh legislator is known to have distributed a large number of scrapped currency notes among his constituents the day after the Prime Minister dramatically announced ‘Notebandi’.
But political parties and politicians, who had built up their war chest months ahead of the election were clearly hit hard. “All parties barring the BJP were forced to cancel plans for big rallies,” admits senior Samajwadi Party leader Rajendra Chaudhry. A positive fallout, he adds, is the revival of door-to-door campaign by party workers.
After the Prime Minister’s rally in Lucknow on January 2, he points out, even BJP has not held a big, political rally. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had to cancel three of his rallies in November alone. Sanjay Sharma, one of the organisers at Saharanpur, confirmed to National Herald that the rally had to be cancelled because labourers, tent houses, electricians, people putting up public address systems, bands and music wallahs had to be paid in cash, which was not there.
“Our big rallies were cancelled simply because we did not have money. It takes weeks of preparations to hold rallies even at the divisional level. Not only for mobilising and transporting people and feeding them, but money is needed for a host of arrangements,” Chaudhry admits.
CASH-STRAPPED PARTIES FOCUS ON DOOR-TO-DOOR and DIGITAL CAMPAIGNS
In late October and early November Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had addressed three rallies, but subsequent rallies were called off by the party. “The BSP is now stressing on committee meetings. The BSP has revived ‘Bhaichara committees’ and is holding meetings at ground level,” Ravindra Kumar, a senior BSP leader said.
“The BSP stands on a strong footing. We were first to announce our candidates. They have already built good rapport with masses. Behenji (Mayawati) will hold a few rallies and it would be enough for the party,” he said.
Dr Nomita P Kumar, of Giri Institute of Development Studies in Lucknow says: “In politics, rallies are aimed to give a message to masses. You may be a good leader but a small crowd could give a bad press which ultimately can prove detrimental for the party. Therefore, all the parties ensure a good crowd. It is no secret that people take money to attend rallies. Post-demonetisation cash became a rare commodity, which forced leaders to call off rallies”.
After the Prime Minister’s rally in Lucknow on January 2, even BJP has not held a big, political rally. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had to cancel three of his rallies in November alone. In late October and early November, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had addressed three rallies, but subsequent rallies were called off
Elections are a big money-spinning game for small traders, menial labourers, printers, et al. Ask any of them and they will vouch that dhanda manda hai (business is low).
Several printing presses report that their order book was down by almost 40% compared to last election. Bharat Singh of Prerna Printers said "During the last Lok Sabha election, we worked 24-hour shifts. We had so much work that we also hired some local printers. But this year you can see for yourself”, he said, pointing towards machines, “We have practically no work”.
Political parties claim to be relying more on digital campaigns. They are reaching out to people through WhatsApp Groups, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Parties like BJP and SP have their war rooms fitted with computers, smart phones and other devices.
Sanjai Rai, Head, BJP IT Cell claimed the party had access to 1.5 crore people in WhatApp Groups and to 4.5 crore additional people who use Facebook. These six crore people could be reached within seconds. We have data ready and feed them with our publicity material, he said adding: “Cash or no cash, we are doing our job.”
Why parties need cash
- Money is needed to buy loyalty of local leaders like Gram Pradhans, who are fountain heads of support for any party. The way the Pradhan moves, the village moves, is the saying. Parties buy that loyalty
- Money is also needed to prevent leaders from defecting to other factions, or in some instances to some other parties
- Money is used for regular campaigns like organising rallies, ferrying supporters, printing leaflets, posters and publicity material, setting up hoardings and hiring vehicles
- Cash is used to distribute liquor among the party youth who work day and night for the candidates
- Cash is also required to transport, train, feed and pay party loyalists at polling booths.
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- prime minister
- Uttar Pradesh
- Akhilesh Yadav
- Bahujan Samaj Party
- Samajwadi Party
- assembly elections
- assembly polls
- UP chief minister
- Rajendra Chaudhry
- Election 2017
- election rally
- bhaichara committee
- Ravindra Kumar
- Dr Nomita P Kumar
- Giri Institute of Development Studies
- digital campaign
- Sanjai Rai
- BJP IT Cell