Mumbai: The Election Commission (EC) has on Saturday issued a notice against senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde after he stoked a controversy by his candid admission about spending Rs 8 crore on his 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign.
The EC has asked Munde to explain within 20 days 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 allegedly suppressing and undervaluing his poll campaign expenditure.
"The reasons for the said default should be explained by you in writing and your explanation should reach the Commission within 20 days from the date of receipt of this notice.
"ln case, you fail to do so, within the time stipulated above, 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 being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament or of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State or Union Territory for a period of three years from the date of order of the Commission declaring you to be so disqualified," the EC notice to him said.
Munde, who is an MP from Beed and BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha had on Thursday also openly dared the Election Commission to act against him for his remark and sought state funding of elections to check use of black money.
"I spent Rs 29,000 when I contested my first Assembly poll in 1980. But had to spend Rs 8 crore for my last (2009 Lok Sabha) election," Munde, BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, had said at a book release function on Thursday in the presence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari.
"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 had said.
The EC notice said that the election expenditure shown by Munde in the 2009 elections was only Rs 19,36,922 as per the account of election expenses maintained under Section 77 of the RP Act, 1951 and lodged on June 8, 2009.
"Whereas, it is evident from the above that, as per your own admission in public, you in fact spent Rs 8 crore as your election expenditure and thus, you did not maintain a true account of your election expenses as required under Section 77 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and, therefore the account lodged by you under section 78 of the RP Act, 1951, is not in the manner required by law.
"Now, therefore, under sub rule (5) of Rule 89 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, the Election Commission hereby gives you notice to show cause why you should not be disqualified under section 10 A of the RP Act, 1951 for your failure to maintain a true and correct account of your election expenses as required by law, for not lodging the true account of your election expenditure by suppressing/undervaluing the said expenditure, and thus having failed to lodge your account of election expenses in the manner required by law," the EC notice further said.
Section 10A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, says that a person can be disqualified for failure to lodge account of election expenses - "If the Election Commission is satisfied (a) has failed to lodge an account of election expenses within the time and in the manner required by or under this Act, and (b) has no good reason or justification fbr the failure, the Election Commission shall, by order published in the Official Gazette, declare him to be disqualified and any such person shall be disqualified for a period of three years from the date of the order."
Sources said the Election Commission took possession of the CD of his speech and transcribed it before sending him a notice.
Congress leaders earlier demanded that Munde be disqualified from Parliament and asked the Election Commission to initiate action against him. Congress leader Satyabrat Chaturvedi said Munde has violated the election law and has himself accepted this. "The Election Commission should take appropriate action," he said.
Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP from Mumbai North, said the EC should initiate proceedings for Munde's disqualification. "I will urge EC to call Munde for enquiry and take action against him," he told reporters.
BJP was defensive on the issue and reasoned that Munde has flagged an important issue of state funding of polls.
"Munde has raised a very valid issue of government funding of elections and also the rising expenditure in polls. I think he has flagged one important discussion in the country. If somebody has misconstrued that it is his own experience, then this is what leaders are observing across the country," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Shahnawaz Hussain said what Munde meant was that people had spent Rs 8 cr for his election campaign. Another party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said one should not go into the nitty-gritty of what Munde said and instead focus on the larger issue of need for more funds to win over voters during polls.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)