Campaigns in time of downturnMar 31st, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Issues
Elections bring business to people from all walks of life, including tailors. Photo: M. Srinath
Thiruvananthapuram: Although it is still too early to say the last word on the trends, a combination of factors, including those that stem from the economic downturn and the spending curbs imposed by the Election Commission of India appear to have dampened the campaigning process in Kerala.
The strict curbs imposed by the Election Commission and the mechanism put in place for thorough scrutiny of campaign expenses have forced the candidates and their managers to exercise restraint. This has had the desired impact: the pomp and splendour are missing. No candidate dares to brow-beat rivals with a riot of colour and stunning road shows. The focus is on an austere approach to luring voters.
Campaign managers too are treading cautiously because of the fear of punitive action if they are found flouting the code. All candidates are keenly watching the movements of their rivals so that even a minor slip could be brought to the notice of the observers. This watchfulness, combined with the discipline enforced by the commission — and the economic downturn — has doused the enthusiasm of the campaigners.
Yet, economists reckon that the elections will provide a boost — if only temporary — to the economy.
Unlike laying a road or building a bridge, elections help all vendors, from teashops to textile showrooms, do business. This boom will last till the campaign peaks, and then taper off, says economist M.A. Oommen.
“If each candidate were to spend Rs. 50 lakh… the total amount could be Rs. 30 crore-Rs. 50 crore. This will only increase the velocity of spending but will not have a catalytic effect on the economy,” he says.
According to K.J. Joseph of the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, the elections will trigger spending. But the government machinery and the Ministers need to monitor the flow of money. Campaigning and other political preoccupations should not divert the attention of the Ministers as well as the officials from scrutinising the spending.
Though the Ministers are also prominent leaders, he says, it is their duty to check excessive spending. The campaign managers of rival fronts admit that the volume of donations has come down considerably from the previous elections.
They have to make do with the “limited” funds at their disposal. In short, the recession, coupled with the spending curbs, appears to have compelled them to fight the elections with some degree of austerity.