Gopinath Munde was never one to shy away from the truth. Years ago, when the Ayodhya movement was at its peak, Munde was among the first BJP leaders to make an honest admission: at least he, if not his party, could not do without the votes of the minorities and he would do nothing to unduly provoke them or compel them to vote against him.
Consequently, at a meeting in his party office, as one of his secretaries brought the campaign schedule for his approval, he crossed out the name of Sadhvi Rithambara and said in no uncertain terms: “I do not want her anywhere near my constituency. She will alienate even those handful of Muslims who are my friends. Keep her miles away from my place.”
His campaign manager should not have been surprised for Munde had no qualms about publicly admitting why he was in the BJP. He was friends with Pramod Mahajan before they became brothers-in-law and Munde was clear that it was Mahajan who made of him what he was at the time.
“I am in the BJP because Pramodji is in the BJP,’’ he told a public gathering at the felicitation of Mahajan on becoming the party’s general secretary. ``Had he gone to the Congress, I would have followed him to the Congress,’’ he said quite sincerely even as Mahajan looked a little queasy at Munde’s open admission of such blind faith.
At one point of time when he had to travel from Nagpur to Bombay in the middle of the winter session of the legislature on his birthday (December 12), he frankly debunked our idea that he was returning to the state capital to spend time with his family.
``There is a party thrown for business entrepreneurs. And you know how important that is for our party,’’ he told some reporters just before boarding his flight to Bombay.
And he stood his ground even with Nitin Gadkari, then the president of the Maharashtra unit of the BJP, when the two virtually came to blows in their party office over a disagreement regarding a particular yatra that Munde had wanted to undertake in the villages along the Godavari river.
So I was not surprised when indiscretion got the better of him when he admitted publicly that he had spent Rs. 8 crore at the 2009 Lok Sabha election and dared the Election Commission (EC) to do its worst.
While most political parties are now gunning for Munde, it can be no one’s case that they spent only Rs. 25 lakh each candidate in that election, the limit stipulated by the EC. A rough estimate after those polls suggested that at least Rs. 50 crore was spent by all candidates in each constituency across the country and unscientific though the numbers may be they are not too far from the truth.
Meera Sanyal, a banker who set aside Rs. 25 lakh of her own hard-earned money to contest the 2009 polls from Bombay, lost her deposit and the campaign of Captain Gopinath in Bangalore did not even take off even as he stuck to the EC-specified limits. But I am not sure if I would want the State to fund elections as Munde is suggesting because that would mean my hard-earned tax payer’s money would go towards funding the alleged rascals and rapscallions who slip intoof Parliament in large numbers.
I wonder why we cannot have transparent donations – even by credit cards – to political parties. The donations could be tax deductible. This might not just reduce the use of black money but also perhaps help to keep the criminal funding out of elections. It is a myth that the largest donors to political campaigns are business houses -- most of the money, in fact, comes from the mafia and the underworld and that comes with strings attached.
So while Munde may have been somewhat uncircumspect with his public boast, he might have done us all a big favour by nailing the truth and not calling the spade by any other name (pardon the mixed metaphors). I think even the EC knows that Rs. 25 lakh is by far not enough to buy even a one BHK home in Bombay or Delhi, let alone stretch it to six lakh voters of each constituency.
Munde’s Rs. 8 crore, on the other hand, might have bought substantial homes for at least six couples around the country! More’s the pity!