BJP MP Varun Gandhi on Friday termed the Election Commission as a "toothless tiger" which, he said, has never derecognised any political party for not submitting poll expenditure details within the stipulated time. Gandhi also said political parties spend a lot on poll campaign, denying opportunity to people from humble background to contest elections. His remarks come even as the BJP is under opposition attack for "pressuring" the Election Commission to not declare elections to the Gujarat Assembly with those for Himachal Pradesh legislature. The Congress has accused the BJP of using "shameless pressure tactics" with the EC so it could woo the voters in Gujarat with last-minute sops. "One of the biggest problems is the problem of the Election Commission which is really a toothless tiger. Article 324 of the Constitution says it (EC) controls and supervises elections. But does it really do that? "It does not have the power to file cases once elections are over. It has to go to the Supreme Court to do so," Varun Gandhi said while delivering a lecture on "Political Reforms in India" at the NALSAR University of Law here. He said the poll panel has never derecognised any political party for not filing the poll expenditure report on time. "Though all political parties file late returns, only one political party belonging to the late PA Sangma (NPP) was derecognised for not filing returns on time, and the commission revoked the same a day after it filed the expenditure report," said Gandhi who represents Sultanpur seat in Uttar Pradesh. He said the budget allocated for the poll panel for the 2014 Lok Sabha election stood at Rs 594 crore while there are 814 million voters in the country. In contrast, the budget was double in Sweden which has a voter base of seven million, he said. Gandhi acknowledged the excessive influence of money power in the electoral system and cited some examples. He said it has become virtually impossible for people from poor and middle class background to contest elections to Parliament and state assemblies. Noting that political parties spend large amounts of money on poll campaign, the BJP leader said, "Technically, an MLA (candidate) can spend between Rs 20 and Rs 28 lakh and an MP (aspirant) Rs 54-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". He expressed confidence that political parties will inevitably move towards transparency. ".... It may take five years... It may take 10 years... I am very optimistic," Gandhi added.