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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Is the Congress party reeling under financial crunch?

Harinder Baweja and Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 09, 2014
First Published: 23:25 IST(9/8/2014) | Last Updated: 08:50 IST(10/8/2014)

The grand old party of Indian politics is possibly facing a fund crunch. The Congress, in power for 10 years at the Centre, took a big overdraft from the banks during the Lok Sabha elections. Congress treasurer and Rajya Sabha MP Moti Lal Vora, admitted to the overdraft, but tried to underplay it by saying, “It’s not abnormal.”

“We take an overdraft from the bank as and when we need it. It is not abnormal. We will file our report to the poll panel,’’ Vora told HT. When asked about the amount the party had borrowed, he said, “It is our internal matter.’’ Congress sources peg the amount at about Rs. 300 crore. The amount could not be confirmed.

Several Congress aspirants who contested the polls confirmed the party’s “financial crunch” and complained about getting no funding at all from the party.

Each contestant can spend up to Rs. 60 lakh per constituency according to the election commission guidelines but many were told to fend for themselves.

Even in politically sensitive Andhra Pradesh, which was set to be divided between Seemandhra and Telangana, Congress was apparently scraping the bottom of the money barrel. A Congress leader involved with distribution of funds told HT, “Of the 113 seats we contested in Telangana, we could fund only 46 and of the 17 LS seats, we could only fund six.”

Before going to the polls, the Congress had at least Rs. 568 crore in cash, cheque and fixed deposits, according to the expenditure report filed by the party to the election commission at the end of 2013.

The report was filed after the conclusion of elections in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram. The electoral process was completed on 11 December, 2013.

“The impression that the UPA government couldn’t protect the corporate sector affected our donations,’’ said a senior Congress leader who did not want to be named, adding, “Many candidates in the electoral fray had to raise their own finances’’

The Congress is believed to have given funds to just one of its candidate in Seemandhra region.

“This time, there was fund crunch so we had to spend tactically. We evaluated the chances of each candidate and then decided on the fund allotment,” a Congress leader not wishing to be named said. A senior Congress strategist recalled how he had to convince his colleagues to provide funds for Lalu Prasad after his rallies were getting a good response. The Congress had to bear the cost of hiring the chopper.

With Haryana and Maharashtra due for polls later in the year, the Congress leadership is pressing its state units to speed up their donation drives.


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