Saturday, April 28, 2012

New to Politics – Part 2 of 2 – How to balance? – Spending

In the second part I will concentrate on how a politician spends to get the best bang for his buck especially for one in the opposition, without any state largesse or robbery to depend on. That in itself is worthy of another discussion!

What is the objective? It is to obtain as much empathy from a potential voter, so that he or she will be likely to vote for you at election time, which for all intents and purposes is 6 years for a Parliamentarian, 5 years for a Provincial Councillor and 4 years for a Pradeshiya Sabha Member. (includes Municipal Councillors)

How does one achieve this? In two words, it is Social Service, if one is in opposition, due to the minimal amounts available from the consolidated fund to distribute to your electors as largesse for support. The rest is from personal funds, either out of one’s own pocket or from friends and well wishes who offer and pay for activities in the hope that one day when you can once elected return the favor and then some, a sort of investment in the future, with value unknown!!!

We then have to separate this from personal and communal assistance. The word is to avoid as much personal help as what that does is to anger those who do not receive personal help, in the belief they are more deserving. So it is to be avoided at all cost, and in exceptional circumstances, where one attends a funeral of someone known to you, who has helped, and who needs some assistance to pay for the funeral some money at the time of attending the funeral is the order of the day!

Whilst one does not associate funerals with spending it is the most expensive recurring obligations one has. It is a matter of social prestige when an important and in this case an MP or Minister can attend a funeral. It gives a statement to the neighbors that they are (the living) important enough that so and so attended the funeral. The cost is in the time lost, and the cost of transport to get there, which can easily exceed Rs2000 for each funeral attended, when one looks at the distance one travels to get there. Of course the time when it is advisable, when there are a lot of people available to witness the presence, is to go in the evenings or at the moment of final religious rites are performed.

One must not forget that it is usual for the MPs office, to put a banner expressing his condolences at a funeral for those who come to the funeral to see, just as much at express condolences, as it is usually with other banners from the workplace of a close relative of the deceased or the deceased him/herself. The cost of transport to place this along with the labor cost of the driver and other I a vehicle and the cost of retrieving is no small sum, that needs to be appreciated in this instance.

The Organizer of an electorate has the biggest burden. He may have to underwrite a bus taking a protestors or party members for a meeting, demonstration or similar. Then he has to host the local government members for monthly meetings to discuss strategy at the local govt. meetings on what is to be discussed and raised.

The Sinhala Avurudhu time is especially heavy on the pocket, as some contribution is requested for each festival in their area. Then at Vesak and Poson, dansalas come along that require contribution or in some cases sponsorship. The most wasteful are the evening Sangeethayas that some put on to show and attract a lot of young people, as it is a way for one to be remembered especially if the bash is a very good and memorable one.

Then the placing of banners and posters, the hosting of party elders and meeting including stages if necessary when they come into to town for the local elections and the meals that follow and the booze that is regulatory! Require funding.

Cards have to be sent for Avurudhu or the New Year to all constituency members one has on one’s database. To say nothing of the office that one is obliged to set up in a constituency in the case of an organizer and the costs of the staff and running of the office, including endless refreshments.

Each polling booth has three shakas, for the main party, ladies and the youth. In the case of a constituency this can amount to 200 groups of 20 or more. This involves a commitment to go to their meetings or set them up and ensure that there are local activities organized by them for which some contribution is expected.

Contributions are requested on an adhoc basis for local events, sponsorships of a sports meet, community event, where the first person the fundraiser turns to is the local political representative. The strain can be enormous and managing this spend to the maximum benefit, while minimizing its overall cost is a very hard trapeze act that has to be maintained to prevent one from being dislodged from position, as that is when one gets a stab at being a candidate at the next available election.

Occasionally there are people attempting to unseat you from your position by spending more and getting people to turn to that other person. This then opens up a competition to show who can outspend the other. It gets dirty when that sort of thing happens. That is when money power can overtake justice in party loyalty and longevity to the detriment of the latter. It is very important to be aware of this possibility and constantly be prepared to take countermeasures when threats are apparent. No wonder rich people can sleep soundly in politics, others are in debt! Or beholden to others like slaves, so can you contemplate a future in clean politics?

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