Lok Sabha polls: Kanhaiya Kumar’s crowdfunding approach picks up steam | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Lok Sabha polls: Kanhaiya Kumar’s crowdfunding approach picks up steam

May 22, 2024 09:50 AM IST

Till 9.30pm on Tuesday, the drive had raised ₹48,98,451 which is 53% of the amount the goal set, i.e, ₹92,50,000

From comedian Kunal Kamra to filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, from professors (past and present) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to faculty from universities abroad, people from different walks of life have contributed to the crowdfunding drive launched by Congress candidate from northeast Delhi Kanhaiya Kumar to finance his campaign. Kumar is up against the two-time and incumbent MP from the BJP, Manoj Tiwari.

Kanhaiya Kumar (Agencies)
Kanhaiya Kumar (Agencies)

Till 9.30pm on Tuesday, the drive had raised 48,98,451 which is 53% of the amount the goal set, i.e, 92,50,000, with two days left for the campaign to conclude.

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Vishal Bhardwaj, Kunal Kamra among contributors to Kanhaiya Kumar’s campaign

While launching the campaign on an online platform fueladream.com last Wednesday, Kumar said in a video message: “We are contesting this election through crowdfunding because we think that the people’s fight can be fought with the support of the people.”

The campaign was launched at a time when candidates from the Congress party were struggling with funding. Earlier this month, Congress candidate for the Puri, Sucharita Mohanty, returned her ticket citing that she had run out of funds after the party could not provide adequate resources to fight the polls.

While there is no cap on how much parties can spend, candidates are limited to 95 lakh for larger Lok Sabha constituencies, and 75 lakh for smaller constituencies.

Till the time this report was filed, over 2,113 people had contributed to Kumar’s campaign with donations ranging from 100 to 500,000. Interestingly, the majority of the donors chose to remain anonymous, and the maximum number of the donors have donated small donations.

Before Kanhaiya, several other Congress candidates, including Geniben Thakor from Gujarat’s Banaskantha constituency and Ritvik Makwana from Surendranagar, also resorted to crowdfunding to finance their campaign.

Anshul Trivedi, a national media panelist for the Congress and looking after Kumar’s campaign, said that small donations accounted for the biggest proportion of the money raised. “The donations are mostly coming from common people who want to just participate in politics, who can’t be on that ground but just want to support us. The majority of donors have given a small amount of 100-200 because that’s Kanhaiya’s base: the common people, the laborers, the workers, the farmers, the students and the first generation learners. Those are the people who see hope in his politics.”

Responding to a question on whether the campaign was launched due to a funds crunch in the Congress, Trivedi added: “This regime is not a normal one. In the run-up to the polls, they froze the accounts of the largest opposition party. Thankfully it’s been reversed by the Supreme Court… There is no level playing field right now.”

Kumar’s donors include comedian Kunal Kamra, filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj and his wife, singer Rekha Bhardwaj, former JNU professor Jayati Ghosh, former professors from the university Mohan Rao and Harbans Mukhiya, even faculty from foreign universities including Johns Hopkins University.

“Kanhaiya Kumar comes from a modest background from a backward area of Bihar and has done well for himself academically before venturing into politics. He has a good sense of what are problems in the country and specially what are the problems ailing youth. It will be good to have him in Parliament,” said Rao.

Ghosh said that at a time when the use and abuse of money power has become such a major feature of elections, the ideal response would be public funding of elections and candidates, with transparent accounts and reasonable and clearly enforced limits on spending by all candidates.

“This is still very far from being achieved. But one way the public can respond is through crowdfunding of candidates who are not succumbing to the quid pro quo of money power in politics” she said.

Kamra shared the campaign link on his official account on X, saying, “To all the lovely people who asked me how they can help me, all I ask is please support Dr. Kanhaiya Kumar’s campaign on his journey to Lok Sabha 2024.”

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To be sure, this is not the first time Kumar has launched an online crowdfunding campaign. In 2019, he raised 70 lakh while contesting from Bihar’s Begusarai constituency.

Rahul Verma, of Centre for Policy Research (CPR), said that crowdfunding has always been one way politicians in Infdia and elsewhere raise money. “This happens every year in all parts of the world ; candidates raise funds from their constituencies. Only the medium has changed now.”

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