Monday, January 04, 2010

Ready for Rs 800 cr BBMP poll party?

Ready for Rs 800 cr BBMP poll party?
With each serious poll contestant willing to spend at least Rs 1 crore, the BBMP elections in Feb promise to redefine opulence in civic polls
NIRANJAN KAGGERE


The upcoming Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) polls seem to be a bruhat splurge in the making. Going by the talk in the political and psephological circles, wannabe corporators are likely to blow up anywhere between Rs 600-800 crore this time!
A trailer of this was on display on Sunday when law minister S Suresh Kumar announced that those aspiring to become corporators were getting ready to shell out over Rs 1 crore to secure votes. Kumar, who graduated from being a corporator to an MLA, was speaking at a discussion on the state’s recent political comedies during the release of three books authored by scribe P Thyagaraj in the city.
Kumar’s statement is quite alarming, given the fact that the average spending per candidate in the 2002 BBMP elections was just in the range of Rs 5-10 lakh. The State Election Commission has capped poll expenses at Rs 5 lakh per candidate. But the current Rs 1 crore budget marks a ten-fold increase compared to previous elections, given the fact that there are 198 wards this year, and assuming that each ward will witness a spending of Rs 4 crore by the top four candidates (three from the major political parties Congress, JDS and BJP, and one independent). A majority of those wanting to enter the BBMP council are from the real estate sector and are seeking a piece of the power pie. If one were to calculate in the backdrop of Kumar’s statement, poll spending by aspiring corporators will add up to Rs 792 crore!
Such mind-boggling estimates are sure to get tongues wagging. Even Kumar could not resist endorsing a rival politician’s whacky idea. Kumar said: “I remember JDS MLC Nanaiah’s suggestion of cancelling BBMP elections and instead auctioning wards publicly. Whoever has the money will bid for wards and develop them!”
With the BBMP polls scheduled for February (though they may be postponed in all likelihood), hectic lobbying has begun for tickets, in the leading political parties. Police sources maintain that aspiring corporators are competing to pay their political masters to help them get tickets. “A lot of those who are wallowing in the money made out of the realty boom are desperately trying to get into the power circles. As the BBMP council decides how the city shapes up, a seat there would elevate one to a decision-maker,” explained a senior JDS leader.
Ironically, many senior politicians have come to terms with the fact that money power is essential for victory. Congressman and leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah shot back: “Tell me, how you can win elections without money? Can you go and ask poor people for money to fight elections? You will have to borrow black money from the rich, promising them favours in return, and fight elections.” So what is the solution? Siddaramaiah contends: “It is only when people in cities stop discussing in their drawing rooms and instead walk to the polling booth and cast their votes.”
WHERE DOES THE NETA’S MONEY GO?

• Making payments to procure a party ticket

• Advertising — outdoor and media

• Hiring vehicles

• Daily wages of campaigners

• Food and liquor expenses

• Payout to individual voters
Polls are not affordable: Minister
With spending on polls rapidly accelerating, law minister Suresh Kumar is contemplating not contesting elections the next time. He said: “Way back in 1983 when I first contested the polls, I had spent Rs 2,400 and won by 2,000 votes. But today you require at least Rs 10 crores to win an assembly election. Now for BBMP itself, candidates are ready to spend more than a crore rupees. I cannot afford to spend such a huge sum.”

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