LDF in Kerala banks on party cadre for funds

Election war chest.

LDF in Kerala banks on party cadre for funds

Updated – March 20, 2024 at 09:58 PM.

Plans to make electoral bonds issue a major campaign plank

The LDF leads the charge against corporate election financing as it banks on cadre contributions

The LDF leads the charge against corporate election financing as it banks on cadre contributions
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Being the only political party that has refused to accept electoral bonds, the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala is busy making sure that corporate finance of elections and its impact on policy-making becomes a major campaign plank in the election season.

Sasidharan Nair, formerly a CPM local committee member, who is now working at the branch-level, said the first round of district-level conventions where party leaders explain the issue to stakeholders has already been completed. Discussions are currently happening at the constituency-level, which would be progressively extended to the ward and booth levels.

Nair said the CPM’s student wing — the SFI — is already active organising demonstrations and corner meetings, which are well-attended. Party cadres are also being asked to go for a door-to-door campaign distributing pamphlets highlighting the main campaign issues at hand.

CPM Funds

The CPM is a unique party that banks on its own cadre for funds. Each member of the CPM — and the party has over 10 lakh members — has to contribute a certain amount of money to the party referred to as “levy”. There are different slabs for different levels of salary. For instance, Sitaram Yechury, when he was an MP, would contribute 90 per cent of his salary to the party.

The same goes for CPI. CPI leader D Raja, when he was an MP, also donated 90 per cent of his salary to the party. In return, the party would provide housing and ensure education and health facilities for the cadre. All official bungalows of the CPM MPs would house different families of the cadre. Besides this, the party conducts mass contribution drives where they collect money from the public, small traders, MSMEs and so on. They do not take money from corporate houses in general.

The collection is shared among branch and area/district-level committees, before a bulk finds its way to the State committee from where a share is allotted to a candidate. Effectively, the party is assured of funds and is poll-ready anytime, points out analyst AJayashankar.

This is reflected in how the LDF carries out campaigns — flawless and meticulous in equal measure, election after election. A prominent LDF sympathiser, with stints in offices of ministers, said a candidate may not need to ‘spend a penny’ from his pocket to run a Lok Sabha campaign. Party workers volunteer to go door-to-door for campaigning. A pool of young activists of the DYFI and the SFI fan out into the constituency.

In 2019, think-tank CMS India included Thiruvananthapuram and Vadakara constituencies in Kerala in an exclusive list where individual candidates spent more than ₹40 crore for campaigning. This is 50 times the expenditure limit (₹70 lakh) mandated by the Election Commission per candidate in a constituency. More than one-third of all poll expenditure is ‘unaccounted for’ — which is more than half of what the candidates and parties spend in all.

Helping hand to CPI

In Kerala, CPI(M) cadres are also deployed in a constituency where alliance party CPI stands from. But it is not known to help with funds, which the latter may have to find on its own. “We now know alliance partners in other States share funds with the CPI(M) and the CPI,” Jayashankar said.

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