Why political parties are taking to crowdfunding

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The Bharatiya Janata Party is the richest political party in the country. So when it launched a microfunding drive through the already existing NaMo app, it was not for the money as much as it was to fortify its connect with the party's dedicated voter base.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally launched the microfunding initiative as he made an inaugural donation of Rs 1,000 to the BJP through the app. “Contributed to @BJP4India, via the 'Narendra Modi Mobile APP'. I urge you all to contribute to the Party through the App and spread the message of transparency in public life. You can contribute any amount from Rs 5/- to Rs 1000/- via the 'Narendra Modi Mobile App.',” Modi tweeted.

According to a BJP leader, the purpose behind the microfunding campaign is to connect with the electorate, instil in them a sense of ownership of the party as also to convey the idea that the party believes in transparency and honesty in its funding.

So the aim of the campaign goes much beyond mere collection of funds. As per a study done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the BJP is the richest political party in the country. In the financial year 2016-17, the BJP declared an income of Rs 1,034.27 crore to the Election Commission, which was Rs 463.41 crore more than the previous year.

The Congress, too, has begun a two-month-long crowdfunding campaign. Launched on October 2, the funding endeavour will involve party workers across the around 10 lakh booths in the country.

For the principal opposition party, the campaign aims at collecting funds as well as reaching out to the voters. As per the ADR study, while the BJP's income has increased, that of the Congress dipped during the period 2015-16 to 2016-17 — from Rs 261.56 crore to Rs 225.36 crore.

While the campaign is intended to help the cash-strapped party collect funds, it will also involve reaching out to the voters through a door-to-door campaign, with the workers appealing to them for funds, informing them about the Congress' policies on important issues, and collecting information about them.

The idea is to create a mobile app database of 20 crore households. The information to be collected as part of the outreach-cum-funding exercise is the voters' names, phone numbers, voter IDs and their email addresses.

In May this year, as the Congress faced a severe paucity of funds, it had posted an appeal on social media, asking for donations ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 10,000.

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party, which had used crowdfunding in an extremely effective manner not only to get funds to fight elections but also to reach out to voters in the Assembly elections in Delhi, is at it again in the capital, in run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is leading his party's door-to-door campaign asking for donations. The party is appealing to people to donate a monthly amount starting from Rs 100 to Rs 10,000. An important element of this campaign is to 'expose' the seven BJP MPs who were elected from Delhi in 2014 and tell the electorate why it is important to have seven AAP MPs representing Delhi in Parliament.

According to an AAP leader, party volunteers will ask the people to compare the performance of seven BJP MPs with that of the Kejriwal government. The party has formed 3,000 teams of volunteers who will in the next few months go to different parts of Delhi and knock at the doors of every house to appeal for votes.