General Elections 2024: Predicted to Set New Spending Records

Preeti Bali / 1:13 pm / April 26, 2024

An expert in polling has suggested that the upcoming 2024 general elections for the 18th Lok Sabha are on track to surpass previous spending records, potentially becoming the most costly electoral event globally. N Bhaskara Rao, who leads the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) and has monitored election expenditures for 35 years, estimates the total expenditure to soar to a staggering Rs 1.35 lakh crore. This figure represents more than double the amount spent during the 2019 elections.


Rising Costs and Revised Estimates


According to Rao, this anticipated expenditure encompasses all election-related spending, whether direct or indirect, including contributions from political entities, candidates, governmental bodies, and the Election Commission. In an interview with PTI, Rao disclosed that the initial estimate of Rs 1.2 lakh crore was revised upward to Rs 1.35 lakh crore, factoring in electoral bond disclosures and accounting for all associated expenses leading up to the voting dates.


Diverse Funding Channels


Rao emphasized that money flows into the electoral process through various channels beyond electoral bonds. He anticipates that the Election Commission’s budget for managing the polls will constitute 10-15 percent of the total projected expenditure. Additionally, Rao predicts that media campaigns across multiple platforms will comprise approximately 30 percent of the overall election expenditure.


Key Trends and Observations


Aside from financial projections, Rao identified six significant trends characterizing the ongoing general election. These include prolonged pre-poll activities, the dominance of affluent candidates, the phenomenon of political crossovers, manipulation through various channels, challenges related to fair play, and power dynamics favoring incumbents.


Continued Evolution of Electoral Spending


Rao noted that while visible spending is concentrated during the 45-day direct campaign period, the actual expenditure surpasses this timeframe. In 2019, the CMS reported that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accounted for 45 percent of the total expenditure of Rs 60,000 crore. Rao anticipates an increase in the BJP’s spending share in the 2024 elections, reflecting ongoing trends in electoral dynamics.


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