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Political merchandise sales grow as India approaches national election

Since many people have little education, party workers use flags to promote their symbols and hang them outside houses as the medium of their campaigns, said one who is involved in such trade.

Various Indian national and regional political party flags and election campaign materials are seen for sale at a wholesale shop in New Delhi on March 5, 2014. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

MAKERS of political materials and party flags in India were working overtime and expanding operations to meet a rising demand weeks ahead of India’s general elections kicking off on April 19.

According to a report by Reuters, garment makers are converting factories where they usually make saris for production units for election flag and materials ahead of the first of the seven phases of the election that will continue till June 1.

The results will be announced on June 4.

Mukesh Agarwal, owner of one such factory, said there are 40 similar ones in Mathura, a holy town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh — the country’s most populous state and the most significant politically. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also in power in the state that sends 80 representatives to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the parliament that will go to polls this year.

Read: Traders at women-run market in India’s violence-hit Manipur question relevance of elections: ‘What will change?’

“The cheapest and best items used for political campaigns are banners and flags,” Agarwal was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Election merchandise is a low-margin, high-volume business, where the price of a party badge can start from Rupee 1.

Agarwal said some of the factories can make a million flags daily if demands continue to surge.

Several parties contest elections in India and the country’s nook and corner get plastered with posters from these parties and their candidates.

Read: China may misuse AI to target elections in India, US: Microsoft

“As many people have little education, party workers use flags to promote their symbols and hang them outside houses and make them the medium of their campaigns,” Agarwal told Reuters.

Surat, a textile hub located in Gujarat, the home state of Modi, Gujarat, serves as a primary center for election merchandise.

Additionally, smaller hotspots such as Mathura in the north and Hyderabad in the south also contribute to the election merchandise market.

Elections stimulate the economy by prompting expenditures from parties on a wide range of goods and services, including small merchandise and helicopter rentals.

Gulshan Khurana, general secretary of a traders’ association in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar market, said political parties spend between Rs 30 billion (£285 million) and 50 billion (£475 million) on election merchandise, creating as many as 10 million jobs.

Khurana, who has been a market trader for nearly five decades, said there has been a nearly 30 per cent rise in business compared with the last parliamentary election in 2019, when the BJP spent a record sum to retain power.

An opinion poll last week predicted an easy win for a Modi-backed National Democratic Alliance. A win will mean Modi and his alliance coming to government for the third consecutive term, a feat which is only held by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru till now.

(With agencies)

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