HYDERABAD: In a blistering commentary, BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi attacked the Election Commission on Friday, calling it a ‘toothless tiger’ that has ‘never derecognised’ any political party for not submitting its poll expenditure within stipulated time. Delivering a lecture on ‘political reforms in India’ at the Nalsar University in Hyderabad, Gandhi said political parties spend a lot on their election campaign, denying opportunity to people from humble background to contest elections.
“The total budget according to the Election Commission for the 2014 elections is Rs 594 crores. We do not have a system that keeps a check on the spending by political parties and the problem is with the Election Commission. It doesn’t have the power to file cases and they have to go to the Supreme Court. The commission has never derecognised any political party for filing late expenditure reports. Almost all parties over-shot their expenditure. There was only one which was recognised the next day,” he said.
Gandhi’s criticism of the poll panel comes at a time when his party, the BJP, is facing attack from the Opposition for allegedly ‘pressurising’ the EC not to declare elections to the Gujarat Assembly along with those for Himachal Pradesh. “Technically, an MLA candidate can spend between Rs 20 and Rs 28 lakh and an MP aspirant Rs 54 to Rs 70 lakh. But you are not told that political parties spend unlimited amounts on elections. It is a skewed form of political expenditure which ensures that no middle class or poor people can fight elections anymore”.
Gandhi also highlighted the lack of encouragement for political research in the country and exhorted youngsters to enter parliamentary politics. “The United States Congress library has 600 policy analysts employed and they have the expertise to guide you on any given subject. That is what politicians need -- to be informed. On the other hand, our Parliament library is almost empty. Most of our parliamentarians participate in debates just to press the red or green button as they have very little knowledge of what is going on,” he said. He claimed the meagre grant of Rs 25,000 given to researchers was not enough to nurture quality minds.
“This leads to absence of quality electoral debates and there is little chance for people to judge and vote for the right politician. There is an urgent need for more public participation and use of tools like the Right to Information Act and social media apps. People’s resistance is important. With pressure from the public, there is a greater chance that policy changes and amendments will take place,” he said. Quoting data he claimed that in the last five years, the salary of parliamentarians had increased four times. “However, their average of attendance in Parliament is 62 days a year.”