Nirmala Sitharman stuns with ‘no money’ claim to fight elections 

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I don’t have money to fight elections, says Nirmala Sitharaman

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, March 28: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she declined the offer of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to contest the Lok Sabha elections. Sitharaman reasoned that she lacked the financial resources to contest elections. Her statement is now being seen as an indictment of the electoral process in the corridors of power.

Speaking at a media event, Sithraman said: “I don’t have the kind of funds required to contest elections.” She said that the BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda had offered her choices to contest elections from either Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu.

Sithraman also said: “After considering for a week or 10 days, I said maybe not”. The Finance Minister also reasoned the winnability factor. Sithraman suggested factors such as communities or castes prevailed over her to decline the BJP offer.

Sitharaman appears to have admitted that the people with money power can only contest elections. Also, the Finance Minister has spotlighted the caste factor in elections. On both the counts, she has admittedly faulted the electoral process.

The Election Commission (EC) carried out three revisions in the limit of expenditure in a Lok Sabha constituency by a candidate. The EC revised the limit in 2014, 2020, and 2022. The EC now has set the limit at Rs 95 lakhs for a candidate in a parliamentary constituency. This limit is also seen as a joke by the election observers appointed by the EC.

Candidates put up several dummy contestants in elections to beat around the EC limit on expenditure. Scores of political parties have been formed with sole aim to beat around the EC expenditure on elections. “It’s a thriving business to launch a political party. There is so much money to make out of this business,” said a senior official, who had been an election observer for several elections.

Sitharaman’s reasons for declining to contest elections may give heartburns to her Cabinet colleagues. The likes of Dharmendra Pradhan, Bhupender Yadav, Piyush Goyal, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and others contesting the Lok Sabha elections. They all have spent their political career so far in the comforts of the Rajya Sabha. “If Sitharaman doesn’t have money to contest elections, then how come other ministers are contesting the Lok Sabha polls,” wondered a senior official in the Central government.

Sitharaman’s statement also stirs the rough waters of the electoral bonds. The BJP has been the largest beneficiary of the electoral bond scheme. It has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. If Sitharaman does not have the money to contest the elections, then where is the BJP spending the money gained from the electoral bond scheme?

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