New Delhi: In the dock for claiming to have spent around Rs eight crore in the last general election, BJP's deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde today told the Election Commission that his remarks were only "rhetoric and nothing more."
Replying to the EC's showcause notice for disqualification over his remarks made at a function in Maharashtra, Munde said, "My exclamation that Rs 8 crore was spent in the last election has to be read and heard, as a figure of speech – a rhetoric and nothing more."
Munde denied having said that he spent Rs 8 crore in his election, much more than the prescribed limit, and said the remarks made at a book release function were with reference to expenses incurred by his party in Maharashtra in all Parliamentary constituencies during polls.
The BJP leader claimed that it was this huge expense that requires to be curtailed and demanded that the same be expended by the state in order to curb the expenses and the likelihood of black money being used during polls.
"...My speech ought to have been read from the aforesaid context. Corruption was the issue at the back of my mind; when I gave the speech. This should have lead to a public debate, on the accountability of the political parties, which are the constituents of democratic process," he said in his reply submitted to EC.
He said, "The entire speech needs to be read in too. The central theme of my speech was Election Reforms and part being played by money power during, pre and post, Election process. I was not referring to the amounts spent by me personally or any other candidate, during the period of acceptance of nomination and the Election Result. I have made certain general statements, without any reference to particulars of expenses incurred as 'candidate' during the election process."
Munde was slapped an EC notice after he made an alleged statement in June that he spent Rs eight crore during his 2009 Lok Sabha election. He today denied having said so and claimed that his statement be read in proper context.
The prescribed limit of poll campaign expenditure during the 2009 Parliamentary election was Rs 25 lakh.
The EC said that the election expenditure shown by Munde in the 2009 elections was only Rs 19,36,922.
Munde said in his reply that the Election Commission should have welcomed the idea of a debate to discuss election expenses and called upon political parties for it to lay down rules for disclosing the source of income and explaining the expenditure, mandatory, instead of issuing show cause notice to him.
"My suggestion given to the Government to bear the election expenses of all recognised political parties also needs to be looked into, by this Commission," he said.
He said his speech did not nullify the declaration of his election expenses as contemplated under Rule 86 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 (Rules of 1961) and neither did he deny the truthfulness of the returns filed by him within the stipulated time of 30 days of election results.
"I say and submit that my remark that, the election expenses accelerated to Rs eight Crore has to be read and heard in the correct spirit and no more. My rhetoric does not nullify my declaration for election expenses, as contemplated under Rule 86 of the Conduct of Election Rules 1951. Nor does it nullify or deny the truthfulness of the Accounts lodged within the stipulated period of 30 days of my Election Results in the year 2009.
"Nowhere in my speech I had ever said, that I had lodged wrong or incorrect Returns, qua my election expenses. My speech can not be construed as an 'implied admission' of spending beyond the limits of expenses, set by the Act of 1951 and the Rules framed thereunder," he said in to the EC notice.
The EC had served a notice on Munde on June 29, asking him why he should not be disqualified for "suppressing and undervaluing" his poll campaign expenditure with his public admission of having spent Rs eight crore over it.
The EC had asked Munde to explain why action should not be initiated against him under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and why he should not be disqualified under the Representation of People Act for his "failure" to maintain a correct account of his election expenses.
Munde, who is an MP from Beed and BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, had on June 27 said during a book launch function in Mumbai that he had spent a whopping Rs eight crore during his 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign. He had stated this in the presence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari.
The EC notice said that in case he failed to reply within the time stipulated time, "you will render yourself liable, without any further reference to you in the matter, for disqualification under section 10 A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951....for a period of 3 years from the date of order of the Commission...."