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BJP struggled to retain Gujarat despite spending 2.5 times more than Congress

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BJP, which spent Rs 115 cr, returned to power with 99 seats, its lowest tally in two decades. Congress, which improved count, spent Rs 48.97 cr.

Mumbai: The BJP struggled to retain power in PM Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat last year and ceded significant space to the Congress despite spending nearly 2.5 times more on campaigning.

According to statements filed by the two parties with the Election Commission, the BJP spent Rs 115.02 crore, from the date of announcement of the Gujarat assembly elections to its completion, while the Congress spent Rs 48.97 crore during the same period.

The 2017 Gujarat election was a closely-contested one. Although the BJP retained power for the sixth consecutive term, its tally of 99 in the 182-member assembly was its lowest in more than two decades. The Congress improved its performance with 77 seats.

The high-decible election campaign was characterised by several rallies across Gujarat by Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party president a few days after the Gujarat polls, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides senior leaders from both parties.

The BJP trumped up its well-tested Hindutva and development agenda, while the Congress attempted to poke holes in it with its ‘Vikas gando thayo che’ (development has gone crazy) campaign to show how the BJP’s ‘vikas’ has not touched Gujarat’s common man.

Gandhi visited several temples in the run-up to the polls, while Modi sought to end BJP’s campaign with a flourish, flying in a seaplane and describing it as development that is beyond Congress’ imagination.

Also read: BJP & Congress have made the same mistake in the run up to the Gujarat elections

No mention of Modi’s travel expenses

The BJP’s poll expenditure statement does not have any specific mention of PM Modi’s travel expenses to Gujarat for campaigning, nor does it specifically state the amount the party spent on the prime minister’s grand seaplane ride from the Sabarmati river to the Dharoi dam.

The party’s statement says, its state unit altogether spent Rs 15.84 crore on travel and campaigning expenses for all its star campaigners, and Rs 1.09 crore for other leaders.

The BJP’s central headquarters paid another Rs 76.24 lakh for star campaigners, including Rs 62.64 lakh for Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath’s three trips. In addition, the party spent Rs 35.65 lakh on other leaders.

Congress’ central headquarters spent Rs 6.05 crore on travel expenses of star campaigners and visits of senior leaders such as Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, among others.

Also read: Gujarat elections are the lowest point in the history of the Election Commission

Publicity blitzkrieg?

Overall, the BJP spent Rs 45.6 crore on media and advertisements, while the Congress spent Rs 8.68 crore. The BJP spent Rs 13.01 crore on procuring publicity materials such as hoardings, flags, arches, banners, stickers and so on compared to Congress’ Rs 1.30-crore expenditure under the same head.

The BJP also spent more — Rs 6.77 crore — on public meetings, rallies and processions, compared to Congress’ Rs 1.70 crore.

Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said Gujarat’s middle-class has been frustrated with the BJP-led government and the party’s money and muscle could not change that.

“What the BJP has actually spent is ten times more than the figure it disclosed,” Doshi said.

“Each and every facet of the government’s machinery was used for the party’s advantage, but people can see the truth. Rahul Gandhiji could address people’s issues very well and we could see the result in our numbers,” Doshi said, adding the Congress only lost out in urban areas due to the BJP’s polarising agenda.

ThePrint reached the BJP leadership in Gujarat for comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

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