Despite being the biggest factor in driving an economy, joblessness has seldom taken the centre stage in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. It was a leaked report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), carried out between July 2017 and June 2018, which showed the real picture with the unemployment rate in India standing at a staggering 6.1 percent — the highest since 1972-73.
While the issue of unemployment takes a backseat in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, the season has apparently become a job provider in the time of crisis. According to a Delhi-based research institute, Centre for Media Studies (CMS), expenditure on the Lok Sabha elections stood at around Rs 50,000 crore. These are, however, rough estimates varying from one research to another. For easier estimation, the annual revenue of the Indian film industry can be taken into account. The film industry roughly earns Rs 15,000 crore annually, including the overseas business. And in 2019, the total expenditure of the Lok Sabha election is estimated much more than that.
This massive expenditure is leading to job creation, be it temporary, and is helping thousands in keeping their households running. The Election Commission of India has allocated a budget of around Rs 600 crore to Madhya Pradesh for this purpose. At the same time, political parties, predominantly the BJP and Congress are spending around Rs 400 crore.
The office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Madhya Pradesh has hired hundreds of outsourced employees in the election season. Most of these employees are working in the integrated call centre located in Bhopal, in clerical jobs, computer operators, SVEEP activities, data processing and even election awareness campaigns.
The social media wing of the CEO, MP office, is too an outsourced manpower with staff of around 35 youths with technical expertise working day and night. The team lead by an IAS rank officer is entrusted with the task of promoting voter awareness on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.
VL Kantha Rao, CEO MP, said: “Around 200 outsourced employees have been hired across the state to carry out different election-related works. All of them are young, energetic and driven to perform. Their presence has helped the CEO office.”
Although the employees are hired on a contractual basis but in case of Madhya Pradesh Lok Sabha election is a boon. An employee added: “The wages are not up to the par but at least we have jobs. Most of us were hired before the Assembly elections held in December 2018 and were retained for Lok Sabha elections.”
In Madhya Pradesh, the last phase of voting will be held on May 19 with the first phase beginning on April 29.
When it comes to political parties, the avenue of “election jobs” is much bigger. Apart from funding the contestants, the political parties are forced to invest huge sum of money into election strategies while shying away from accepting the fact.
The traditional business of posters, hoardings, pamphlets, caps and dresses booms as usual. Local agencies roughly double in size about three to six months before the elections with temporary workers, said an election-branding company owner in the city.
He maintained that timelines are very strict in the industry as the clock is ticking day and night. Thus time management skills are very important and so, for a short stint, good pay is usually offered. Going by the trends of the Assembly election held last year, around 1,000 temporary jobs were created during the elections.
He further added that political parties may have their own communications and IT cell but it is marred by internal strife. Every contender has his/her own dedicated professional team to keep watch, ranging from voter swing, turnout, statements, predictions, weak areas, meetings, gatherings and the overall flow. In MP, there are 29 Lok Sabha constituencies with well over 100 contestants in the fray from different political parties.
Another election expert working for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, for example, graphic designers and video experts are most sought after in the election season. The social media never stops, so content pushing can be done 24X7.
BJP has been gaining advantage of social media in the elections since 2014. The party this year too has sought help of professionals in drawing out the election strategy on social media. It has deployed around 70,000 ‘Cyber Yoddhas’ from the state to booth level. Most of these are from party cadre but for content generation, a team of around 50 technical experts keep working from the party headquarters. Similar is the case of the Congress party which also has a dedicated team of outsourced technical experts providing guidance to 25,000 ‘Rajiv Ke Sipahi’ Congress’ counter to ‘BJP’s Yoddhas’.
It was during the Assembly elections when chief minister Kamal Nath had taken professional help in the claimed anomalies in the electoral roll of the state. The party had taken help of Vikas Jain, CEO of politics.in, a start-up and had claimed there are 60 lakh bogus voters in the electoral roll. Following the submission of the Congress party, a massive drive was carried out to filter the electoral roll in the state. Over 20 lakh names were dropped in different drives.
Further, poll workers, communication coordinators, election surveyors, election technology experts, voter outreach coordinators, content writers, door-to-door campaigners and last but not the least rally ‘fillers’ are all paid temporary jobs. A senior BJP leader said rallies and public gatherings are very important in elections as they create a direct sense of contact. But these days moving crowd is a tough job. Ample amount is kept in each constituency for ‘rally fillers’ so that overall reflection is good.
Shobha Oza, media in-charge MP Congress, said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed to provide jobs. We have hit the lowest in employment generation and retention. Election gives job prospects — be it temporary — to even a drummer and a highly-skilled engineer. Most of the work is executed by party cadre but there are some areas where professional assistance is needed and we take that.”
Deepak Vijayvargiya, chief spokesperson MP BJP, refuted any outsourcing in the party. “In our party, every work is carried out by the karyakartas. We do not take any outside help. Congress may be taking additional assistance but we don’t require it.”
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the organisation itself.