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No Hand-out, cash-strapped Congress asks state units to raise poll funds

Cash-starved Congress cuts down on advert spending in print, TV

Screenshot 2024 03 31 105211NEW DELHI: Facing heat from the Income Tax department, the cash-strapped Congress party had cut down its advertisement spending in print and electronic media for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The party’s High Command has already sent a missive to all the state units to mobilise funds through the door-to-door campaign or by reaching out to the people. It is also giving a big push to its election campaign through various other means such as social media platforms, influencers, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools.

Amplifying the crisis, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the party was not able to even spend Rs 2 for campaign work as it’s accounts have been frozen.

In Tamil Nadu, the Congress has already started raising funds through crowdfunding, says party MP B Manickam Tagore. Tagore, who is contesting for the fourth consecutive time from the Virudhunagar, told this paper that the party is holding door-to-door campaigns to tell people that the BJP is misusing ED and the income tax department to strangle the Opposition. “We have scaled down on our expenditure on campaigns through print and visual media. It may cost Rs 50 crore to run a day’s campaign on national media. We don’t have that kind of funds now,” said Tagore.

“We are going to the people and asking them to donate. The state unit is already mobilising funds through crowdfunding. The I-T action came as a big setback on the eve of the elections. The situation could have been handled better if we had known about it six months back,” said Tagore.

Given the lack of resources, the party is lagging behind the BJP on advert spending on print and visual media, points out Vaibhav Walia, chairman of the Congress war room for the Lok Sabha polls. “The first phase of elections is just 19 days away but we haven’t had any major campaign in any newspaper or TV. Though we tried to give an ad on the electoral bonds, most newspapers refused to publish it,” he said.

“The Congress is trying to go organic mostly because of the cash crunch. We are trying to put out our content on social media,” he adds.

In Kerala, as the central leadership has asked party leaders to raise funds on their own to weather the unprecedented crisis, the party decided to print coupons and distribute them at the booth level to collect funds.

In Odisha, the Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) has asked candidates aspiring for party tickets in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to deposit Rs 50,000 each for the supply of campaign materials.

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