With assembly elections lined up in five states, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has once again gone all out flexing its money muscles.
The BJP emerged as the number one advertiser on television in India in the week ending 16 November, according to the latest Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data, as reported by the Economic Times.
To be precise, the advertisements promoting the BJP in the run-up to the elections appeared on television channels 22,099 times.
The BJP had apparently dislodged Vimal Pan Masala, said the ET report, to become the leader in the number of TV adverts. The party moved up a rank to claim the top position across TV channels from number two in the previous week.
In fact, Modi’s party released more TV advertisements than even Netflix, an American media-services and video streaming behemoth, and Trivago, a hotel price comparison website, both of which trailed BJP.
The BJP’s “insertions” (the number of times an advertisement is aired on TV) were almost double the number of Netflix ads (12,951) and Trivago (12,795).
Similarly, consumer goods giants such as Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, and even corporates like Amazon and others were left behind.
For perspective, in the same week, ads for Santoor Sandal appeared on television 11,222 times, Dettol Liquid Soap appeared 9,487 times, Wipe appeared 9,082 times, Colgate Dental Cream appeared 8,938 times, Dettol Toilet Soaps 8,633 times while ads for Amazon Prime Video appeared 8,031 times.
The Congress, meanwhile, figured nowhere in the list of top ten TV advertisers.
The advertising overload obviously indicates how high the BJP deems its stakes to be in the assembly elections for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram — more so, given that the general elections 2019 are around the corner, likely six months away.
However, the BJP otherwise too is widely known to be big spenders — a testament to the corporate backing the party enjoys, returning the favour in kind, of course.
In four-and-a-half years, the Modi government has spent around Rs 5,000 crore — yes, Rs 5,000 crore — on advertisements and publicity through different kinds of media, revealed an RTI application by activist Ramveer Tanwar in October this year.
This was nearly double the amount of money spent by the Congress-led UPA government in ten years of its rule from 2004 to 2014 — Rs 2,658 crore.
According to the reply from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Modi government had spent the highest amount of money — approximately Rs 2,208 crore — on advertisements through electronic media. This was followed by an expenditure of Rs 2,136 crore in the print media. The government also spent Rs 647 crore on outdoor promotion. All of this up to August 2018.
Given that this is money spent on government advertising by the central government, it is for all to see how handy the taxpayers’ money must be coming in — even as the Modi government has been severely cutting public expenditure on education, healthcare, and other basic services and provisions for the people, while handing out huge tax concessions to the corporates.
Modi granted tax concessions to corporates worth Rs 86,145 crore in 2016-17 alone while getting the public sector banks to write off bad loans of Rs 2.41 lakh crore between April 2014 and September 2017.
We all know how the BJP went overboard for its 2014 election campaign, which was managed mainly by Soho Square, a subsidiary of advertising giants O&M. And while the official figures with the Election Commission of India (ECI) say that BJP spent Rs 714.28 crore ($115 million) on the 2014 campaign, as per the party’s contribution report — it is anybody’s guess how modest the BJP is being in stating this figure.