Congress seeks poll expenditure audit, says party was out-funded

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said his Congress party has been ‘out-funded’ as far as this election was concerned, but maintained that the exit polls which predict a BJP clean sweep would be proved wrong on counting day.

The amount of money spent by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for campaigning in this election was ‘astronomical’, Ramesh said at an interaction with the media at the Indian Women’s Press Corps here.

Favouring state funding of elections, he said: ‘There should be a serious expenditure audit. The current norms of expenditure are not realistic.’

Ramesh remarked that muscle power has reduced in these polls but money power has increased.

‘We (the Congress) also spent money but our level of spending was peanuts compared to what they (the Bharatiya Janata Party) were spending,’ he said.

‘The exit polls will be proved wrong like they were earlier in 2004 and 2009. The Congress will do far better than what the polls have predicted and BJP will not do as magnificently as they say,’ he said.
Questioned about the quality of campaigning in this election, he said: ‘All campaigns are brutal and aggressive - this was no different. Inspite of our best efforts, the campaign did become communal. BJP started the campaign from Muzaffarnagar. The Gujarat model was just a Mukhauta (mask).’

‘The BJP which began their campaign from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh (where communal riots occurred last September), managed to polarize the campaign towards the last phase,’ he added.
‘The Congress party was handicapped as we were not fighting the BJP but an individual. In these circumstances, we could never have a discussion on the policies... everything became individual-centric,’ the minister said.

While claiming that a non-Congress government at the Centre is unlikely to stop UPA’s flagship programmes, the union minister said that BJP chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh have been biggest supporters of schemes like MNREGA.

‘I don’t fear that flagship programmes will actually be stopped,’ the rural development minister said when asked about what would happen to the flagship programmes in case there is Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre after 16 May.

‘On the flagship programmes, the biggest supporters of MNREGA have been Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh. On the UPA government’s approach to development in Naxal areas, the biggest supporters of the UPA government have been Raman Singh, Arjun Munda, Navin Patnaik... So I think that whatever Mr Modi may claim in his campaign, one thing...,’ he said, without elaborating.

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