Elections 2019: In a run up to polls, BJP to spend over Rs 12,000 crore on Social Media, Ads and Digital PR in the next 12 months

BY PRANAV GHOSH | Mumbai | 26th May 2018: According to informed sources, media planners, social media experts, advertising industry professionals and election strategists, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will spend over Rs 12,000 crore in the next 12 months in a massive build-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

IndiaScoops.com spoke to nearly 150 experts from various fields in India and abroad to arrive at these figures and the real picture is still more shocking. Of this figure, 50 per cent of the above amount of Rs 12,000 crore will be spent 3-4 months before the elections.

About 60 per cent of the total amount, or Rs 8000 crore is expected to be in black money or will be spent indirectly – not by the party – but by its well-wishers, party supporters and sympathizers and industrialists close to the BJP in a proxy digital war that has almost begun on social media.

Experts claim that about Rs 4-5000 crore will be paid abroad, from party supporters in the US, UK and Europe, but online campaigns will be directed at audiences and viewers in India.

A pro-BJP group in the US is creating about 500 new Facebook pages, 1000 Twitter accounts and about a 200-odd “news” websites, to peddle BJP  fare and propaganda to the masses which will targeted and directed at Indian viewers. Another similar group based in Canada is working in the same direction.

The BJP and its arms will employ about 7 lakh professionals pan-India to run its online campaigns, social media promotions and other related work like online poster and artwork design, etc., over the next 12 months. In the two months prior to the election, at least 10 lakh professionals will be employed full-time all over India in a massive digital war. An additional 20 lakh free-lancers and party workers will support this 7 lakh-plus digital army throughout the year.

Also Read: BJP hires more than 5000 IT professionals for final Karnataka Election salvo

2014 Figures

According to an article published in the Hindustan Times dated 20th April 2014, Media buyers and sources close to the BJP’s campaign said the party could end up spending about Rs 5,000 crore by May 12,2014, when the last phase of polling takes place. Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison World, which is handling the BJP’s media planning, refused to say anything beyond “we are moving as per the approved plan”. This was in 2014, when the Modi wave was at its peak. This time in 2019, the BJP is much richer, much stronger and more desperate to win and will go all out to ensure a resounding majority like it got in 2014.

But a veteran media planner, who is working closely with the BJP, told HT on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media: “Planned spends on all media, including print, television, outdoor, internet and radio would be close to Rs 4,500 crore. The party has set aside an additional Rs 500 crore, which will be used, based on need, to beef up the campaign in critical constituencies and states in the last few days of campaigning.” This is on record and the figures quoted are from industry experts. It does not include the local spend by MPs and their supporters as well as third party sympathizers and “well-wishers”.

According to an article in The Hindu dated 19th April 2014, Anand Sharma, former Union Commerce Minister in UPA 2,  was quoted as saying, “The use of money and resources by the BJP in these elections is unprecedented. At least Rs. 10,000 crore is being spent by the party to project only one person.

On TV, the BJP bought about 2,000 spots a day across Hindi, English and regional news, general entertainment and sports channels. A spot in most popular entertainment channels cost about Rs 80,000 per 30 seconds. The budget: Rs 800-1,000 crore. It spent another Rs 150 crore during the T20 World Cup. The online and radio budget is about Rs 35 crore, the same HT article dated 20th April 2014 had claimed. Asked to comment on its ad budget, a senior BJP leader said, “The expenditure would be about Rs 700-750 crore.”

“The BJP’s spending is at least four times that of the Congress,” said Santosh Sood, former COO, Rediffusion Y&R, a media buying agency. This time in 2019, it is expected to be 6 to 8 times that of the Congress, senior politicians claim.

Government & Election Commission Spending in 2014

According to a PTI report dated 16th March 2014, the projected expenditure to elect the 16th Lok Sabha is set to rival the USD seven billion (approximately Rs. 42,000 crore) spent by candidates and parties in the 2012 US presidential elections.

A study carried out by Centre for Media Studies on poll spendings says “unaccounted for” money pumped in by “crorepati” candidates, corporates and contractors has pushed up the expenditure to elect 543 MPs.

Out of the estimated Rs. 30,000 crore, the exchequer will spend Rs. 7000 to Rs. 8000 crore to hold the electoral exercise for the 16th Lok Sabha.

While the Election Commission is likely to spend around Rs. 3,500 crore, the Union Home Ministry, Indian Railways, various other government agencies and state governments will spend a similar amount to put in place means to ensure free and fair poll. In 2019, the figure is likely to go up by at least 25 per cent.

According to an article in FirstPost dated 5th March 2014,  BJP and Congress are planning to spend Rs 400-500 crore on an ad blitz, and the parties organisations could end up spending another Rs 500-1,000  crore for other forms of campaign-related expenses – banners, hoardings, organisation of public meetings, transport of key campaigners by helicopter or chartered flights, etc. Assuming the smaller regional parties together spend as much as the Congress and BJP put together, we are talking of total party spends in the region of Rs 2,000-4,000 crore.

Add the candidate spends,  and general election 2014 will cost anywhere from Rs 10,145 crore to Rs 17,000 crore for the parties. Add the Election Commission’s own expenses and the cost of deploying forces to ensure a free and fair poll, we should be looking at a total democracy cost of anywhere from Rs 11,000-18,000. In 2019, experts estimate the total expenses of Lok Sabha 2019 to be in the range of Rs 30,000 crore.

Modi Govt Ad Spend in 3.5 Years

The Modi government spent a whopping Rs 3,755 crore on its publicity in three-and-a-half years till October this year, a reply to an RTI query has revealed recently.

The expenditure on advertisements from April 2014 to October 2017 on electronic and print media and outdoor publicity is Rs 37,54,06,23,616, according to the reply given by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Again these are official figures. The unofficial figures including monies spent by well-wishers and party friends is almost double this amount.