Why India’s election is among the world’s most expensive

The world’s biggest democracy will soon hold what’s likely to beone of the world’s costliest elections.India’s six-week-long vote will span the Himalayan range in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south, the Thar desert in the west and the mangroves of the Sundarbans in the east.
This time the polling exercise, due to start on April 11 and be completed by May 19, will cost an unprecedented 500 billion rupees ($7 billion),accordingto the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies. About$6.5 billionwas spent during the US presidential and congressional races in 2016, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in American politics.
The CMS projection marks a 40 percent jump from the $5 billion estimated to have been spent during India’s 2014 parliamentary vote. And it amounts to roughly $8 spent per voter in a country where about 60 percent of the population lives on around $3 a day.
“Most of the jump in spending will come in use of social media, travel and advertising,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, who has advised previous governments and ran a market research group.
Social media spending is likely to be dramatically higher, surging to about 50 billionrupees from 2.5 billion rupees in 2014, Rao said. His group—which bases its projections on field interviews, government data, contracts given out, and other research—also expects a jump in the use of helicopters, buses and other transportation by traveling candidates and party workers.
Specific data can be hard to pin down, but costs are rising in general as constituency sizes increase and more candidates join the fray, said Simon Chauchard, a Columbia University lecturer who has followed elections in India.
Politicians feel “you’ve got to do new things, and crazier things, and bigger things and louder things,” Chauchard said. “It’s a bunch of panicky candidates throwing money around to voters but also to vendors selling all kinds of stuff useful in a political campaign.”

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