TT Epaper
The Telegraph
Graphiti
 
CIMA Gallary

Gulf in party, MPs’ cash claims to EC

New Delhi, March 24: Many Congress MPs may seem uninterested in acknowledging their debt to their party, going by their expenditure statements to the Election Commission after the 2009 general election.

President Pranab Mukherjee, for instance, said he received no money from the Congress to fight the 2009 polls, according to National Election Watch, a wing of the Association for Democratic Reforms that has collated many candidates’ and parties’ affidavits to the poll panel.

The Congress’s declaration, however, says it provided Rs 15 lakh towards Mukherjee’s poll campaign that year. The party also claims to have given Sonia Gandhi Rs 25 lakh but her affidavit is silent on this.

All recognised political parties must submit a statement of poll expenditure to the commission within 90 days of a general election; all the contestants need to send theirs within 30 days.

Among the expenditures the parties have to cite are the sums forwarded to candidates. The contestants are expected to show, along with details of their spending, the sources of their money — their parties, corporate donors and others.

Election Watch says it has details of the affidavits of 123 Congress MPs, on whom the party claims to have spent Rs 12.34 crore. But 81 of them have declared the party gave them nothing.

Only 25 Congress MPs’ statements match the party’s relating to the amounts given to them. They include Rahul Gandhi (Rs 25 lakh), Salman Khurshid, Shashi Tharoor and Meenakshi Natrajan (Rs 10 lakh each).

Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed denied any hanky-panky, saying candidates need to declare only their expenditure details, not necessarily their source of funds. So, they don’t always bother to fill in the relevant page; or they do it cursorily.

“The system is fully transparent: the party gives money through cheques to bank accounts the candidates have opened specifically for election expenditure,” he said.

Other sources said that citing the sources of funds is “required” under commission rules but is not enforced.

The BJP has declared it did not fund even one winning candidate. But 25 MPs — including Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Ananth Kumar and Sushma Swaraj — declared a total of Rs 2.75 crore received from their party.

Questions could be asked because the matter involves the party’s expenditure details. Calls to spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, however, went unanswered.

Anil Verma, head of the Association for Democratic Reforms, argued the poll panel should punish “erring parties and candidates for filing wrong affidavits”.