Poll expense: Elections Commission initiates 'action' against Gopinath Munde

NatGopinath Munde

Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde may have courted controversy by his comments that he spent Rs 8 crore in 2009 Lok Sabha elections but it may be a while before the Election Commission can actually get to disqualify him and debar him from contesting elections, that too provided it can prove his poll expense affidavit filed then acknowledging it to be within the prescribed Rs 25 lakh ceiling, was false.

The EC, nevertheless, on Friday began the process of initiating "appropriate action" with the full commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath taking note of Munde's comments and to start with, decided to procure a CD of the Munde's speech and get it transcribed. "Yes, the Commission did meet and began the process of ascertaining the veracity of the reports. After verifying facts, the EC will take suitable action as prescribed under the law," a senior EC functionary said.

At a book launch function in Mumbai on Thursday, Munde, who is an MP from Beed and the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, had said he spent a whopping Rs 8 crore during the 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari were also present at the function where Munde bemoaned the increasing cost of poll expenses, pointing that he spent Rs 29,000 in his first election but had to shell out Rs 8 crore in the last election. Munde also openly dared the EC to take action against him. "I hope no Election Commission official is present among the audience. Even if an Election Commission authority is present, six more months are to go for the Lok Sabha polls. Even if a case is filed, so be it," he reportedly said.

EC functionaries on Friday conceded that the process could take a while given that the poll panel would have to follow the legal procedure prescribed under law. This will include the time required to issue showcause notices to Munde, once the EC concludes that there has been a violation of Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act. The EC will then have to give him enough time to file a reply as well as respond with clarifications subsequently. "Only once it is indeed proved beyond doubt that any person has crossed the Rs 25 lakh expenditure limit and won an election but has filed a false affidavit stating that he has not violated the ceiling, will he then attract provisions under corrupt practices. He can be debarred for three years from contesting elections," an official said.

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