Contrary to the BJP's public stand of reducing the role of "money power" in elections, former union minister and Punjab BJP affairs in-charge Shanta Kumar on Sunday called upon party office-bearers to collect as much money as they can from the "classes" and "masses" to meet electioneering expenses for the 2012 assembly polls.
Addressing a state unit meeting in Jalandhar, which virtually converted into a money collection exercise, Shanta Kumar said apart from motivating voters to favour the BJP, there was need to collect money to win elections.
"We can make mass collection and 'class' collection. The 'class' people have more money to donate for such party works," he said. "You can start collection immediately and finish the exercise by December-end. After this, it will not be possible to collect funds (from the public)," the former union minister told party workers.
Earlier at the venue, state BJP chief Ashwani Sharma quizzed Ludhiana BJP chief Rajiv Katna on how much money he could garner for the party elections funds. "You asked me to collect Rs 1 crore during (former deputy prime minister) LK Advani's recent visit to Ludhiana. I will do so," Katna replied.
But, Sharma was quick to raise the demand to Rs 3 crore. "Ludhiana is a big district and has many wealthy residents. You should collect Rs 3 crore."
Katna's protests did not impress Sharma.
Next was the turn of Jalandhar BJP chief Subash Sood, who had assured to arrange Rs 50 lakh. "Now, you must contribute Rs 1 crore," Sharma said.
"Former minister Manoranjan Kalia of Jalandhar had already contributed nearly Rs 50 lakh for construction of party office and we will arrange rest of Rs 50 lakh," Sood replied, trying to lower the demand.
"Don't adjust MLAs' or ministers' contribution in election funds. Fetch Rs 1 crore," was Sharma's diktat.
Hoshiarpur BJP chief Jagtar Singh Saini was practically begging for relief when Sharma ordered him to collect Rs 50 lakh instead of the earlier demand of Rs 20 lakh.
Subsequently, one of the office bearers from the gathering stood up to urge the leadership not to burden district units or workers and pleaded that such collections should be made by party MLAs or the ministers. The suggestion, however, found no favour from the leadership. Continuing with the exercise, Sharma asked Amritsar BJP president Bakshi Ram to deposit Rs 1 crore - double the earlier demand.
In a blanket order, the state BJP chief asked the remaining district presidents to collect Rs 20 lakh each while announcing that MLAs, mayors, ministers and chairmen of various boards and corporations would separately chip in.
The total sum BJP's leaders expect to be collected from across the state exceeds Rs 9 crore.