The Congress Friday asked the BJP to make public the sources of the "humongous amount of Rs 27,000 crore" it had reportedly spent in the Lok Sabha polls, and pitched for a national election fund to provide a level-playing field to all contesting parties. Citing data from a study on election expenditure by parties, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the government should come out with a white paper on electoral funding and expenditure.
According to the study by Centre for Media Studies, a total of Rs 60,000 crore was spent by all parties put together in the Lok Sabha election and the ruling BJP alone spent Rs 27,000 crore or 45 per cent of it. The Congress leader claimed that the total amount was equivalent to 30 per cent of India's education budget, 43 per cent of health budget, 10 per cent of defence budget and 45 per cent of allocation for rural job scheme MGNREGA.
"If Rs 60,000 crore is spent in on electioneering by parties, it can never be good for Indian democracy - the world's largest democracy," he said. "We would demand an explanation from the BJP as to the sources of this humongous amount of Rs 27,000 crore - 45 per cent of total Rs 60,000 spent on electioneering," he told reporters.
"The Congress demands establishment of a national election fund to which any person may make a contribution. Funds may be allocated at the time of elections to recognised political parties in accordance with criteria laid down by the law," he said. "With increased commercialisation and money-tisation of election, the government should spell out its policy clearly as to what it intends to do to stop this. The government must come out with a white paper on this issue," he said.
Singhvi said that without a level-playing field, one cannot have a fair, independent and objective, non-partisan elections. "If you cannot have fair level-playing field in elections, then you cannot have democracy and if you can't have democracy, you cannot have basic structure of the Indian Constitution." The Congress leader alleged that schemes such as the electoral bonds have contributed to a completely skewed imbalanced approach to money power in elections.
"The electoral bonds have certainly played a negative and an important role in this distortion," he said, adding that the Congress had promised to scrap the "opaque" electoral bond scheme that was designed to favour the ruling party. Singhvi said while the BJP is in power today, it will be another party tomorrow, but this practice of excessive use of money power in elections is bad for democracy itself, as the scale of humongous expenditure should scare all to think of corrective measures to build a stronger democracy.
To a question on the events in Telangana, where 12 of the 18 Congress MLAs quit the party, Singhvi alleged that all that is happening in the southern state is a result of excessive money power. "We condemn it but it is the reality of the new pattern brought in by the ruling party and the chief minister there," he said.
"It is unfortunate, but if there is commercialisation, it has its negative aspect." In mounting troubles for the Congress after the Lok Sabha debacle, two-thirds of its 18 MLAs in Telangana Thursday deserted the party and joined the ruling TRS.
As many as 12 of the 18 Congress MLAs were recognised as members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi(TRS) by Assembly Speaker P Srinivas Reddy on Thursday night, just hours after they moved him seeking merger of their group with the ruling party.
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