Election season 2014 is winding down. Much money has been spent by the leading parties in reaching out to voters, physically and otherwise. The real sums will never be known because a lot of the expenditure happens 'below the line’.

And yet, from what we have seen so far, it is evident that the official numbers themselves would be dramatically higher than last time, for both the big political parties – Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

Moreover, it would be interesting to see how much the parties spend on transport and media. For two reasons, costs have shot up and the stakes are higher. It would also be interesting to see the proportionate spending by the two parties in these areas because the numbers were quite different last time: for example, the Congress spent Rs. 207.8 cr and Rs. 116.6 cr in 2009 Lok Sabha election.

With the political clashes moving on to the internet during the current elections, it would also be interesting to analyse the spending patterns of political parties on the social media like Twitter and Facebook once the heat-and-dust settles over the poll scene.

The following table shows the expenditure of both the parties in the general elections of 2004 and 2009.

It can see from the table above that the main political parties increased their election expenditures massively to over Rs 830 crore for the 2009 elections from Rs 225 crore during the 2004 elections. BJP has seen a higher increase of more than 300% compared to the 2004 expenditure. Congress, on the other hand, had more than doubled their election spending as compared to the 2004 expenditure.

IndiaSpend earlier reported about the expenditure incurred by the Election Commission in conducting elections in the country. The cost of general elections to the exchequer has increased from Rs 948 crore in the 1999 general election to Rs 1,114 crore for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.


According to the information submitted to the Election Commission, the expenditure of political parties is broken up into central party office expenditure, state- level expenditure and district-level expenditure. Under these, there are three main expenditure heads: publicity, travel and other expenditures. Expenditure on publicity involves printing manifestos, creating videos and audios of party leaders and the party manifestos, communicating to the press and spending on ad spaces in print and electronic media.

So, there has been a considerable increase for both the parties in spending on publicity. Congress has seen a greater increase in spending on publicity as compared to BJP. The spending on publicity by Congress, as percentage of the total expenditure, increased from 38% in 2004 to 54% in 2009. For BJP, the speeding on publicity as part of the total expenditure has come down from 48% in 2004 to 39% in 2009.

In 2004, Congress spent 48% of their publicity expenditure on ads in newspapers and magazines while the BJP spent 77% of their publicity expenditure on the same. In 2009, Congress spent 56% of their publicity expenditure on the electronic media while the BJP spent 58% on the electronic media.

Travel expenses

Travelling expenses are divided into two parts: one is expenses incurred by the party and the other is travel expenses incurred by national-level leaders. The following table shows the travel expenses - both for leaders and in general – for the general elections of 2004 and 2009.

As compared to the Lok Sabha polls of 2004, there has been an increase of nearly 10 times in the travel expenses for the Congress in 2009. Similarly, for the BJP, travel expenses have gone up nearly four times during the same period.

The main reason for the huge increase in travelling expenditure for both parties is due to the increase in the general travel expenditure (including expenditures incurred by leaders other than the star campaigners.

In the 2004 general elections, out of the Congress party’s general travel expense, 96% was spent on aircraft's for leaders other than star campaigners. And from the expenditure on star campaigners, 51% was spent on cars and other land vehicles.

For BJP, in the same election, most of the expenditure - both by star campaigners and other leaders - was on aircraft /planes and helicopters. In 2009, Congress also spent most of its travel expenses the BJP way on helicopters and aircrafts.

It would be interesting to see how much the costs for aircrafts would be. Narendra Modi alone has addressed over 150 rallies across the country, clocking 2.4 lakh km, or an average of about 1,100km a day.

Reports quote Air Traffic Control officials saying Modi has also flown in a Bell 412 chopper owned by a private charter service with the cost of flying is Rs.2 lakh per hour. Furthermore a single-engine chopper is around Rs 70,000 to Rs 75000 per hour while in the case of a twin-engine chopper, the cost goes up to Rs 1 to 1.2 lakh per hour. For jets, the flying cost per hour could come to Rs 3 lakh. Industry sources said that political parties are spending Rs 350-400 crore on chartered planes for campaigns.

Here is an interesting thing to note on other expenses: During both the elections, BJP spent most of their other expenses on maintenance of the party office - both main office and state offices - while the Congress spent the most on public meetings.


The study shows new trends for both the major parties in the country. There are many things that have changed between the 2004 and 2009 elections: both parties depended more on the print media for ads in 2004 but both parties switched to the electronic media in 2009. So, it will be interesting to see what their expenditure figures this year will be with the increasing engagement on social media along with the print and electronic media.