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Congress Candidate for Puri Seat Withdraws Citing Paucity of Funds

Congress Candidate for Puri Seat Withdraws Citing Paucity of Funds

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 4: In yet another setback to the Congress, the Grand Old Party lost its third candidate in the Lok Sabha elections even before polling when its nominee for the Puri seat in Odisha withdrew from contest on Saturday citing lack of funds.

The journalist-turned-politician Sucharita Mohanty said she was told by the party that it had no funds to support her in the elections and she herself hitherto being a salaried professional did not have enough money of her own to fund the elections and had no option but to withdraw.

The Congress has already lost the Surat seat in Gujarat and Indore in Madhya Pradesh to the rival BJP without voting. The nominations of both the Surat candidate and his cover candidate were rejected in scrutiny on identical grounds as the proposers of both told the election official that they had not signed the nomination papers, while the candidate for the Indore seat withdrew his nomination and joined the BJP.

“It is clear that only a fund crunch is holding us back from a winning campaign in Puri. I regret that without party funding, it won’t be possible to carry out the campaign in Puri. I, therefore, return the INC ticket for the Puri Parliamentary Constituency herewith,” Ms Mohanty wrote in a letter to Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. Voting in Puri is due to be held on May 25.

“I have withdrawn my candidature for Puri Lok Sabha seat as I am unable to mobilise resources to fund my campaign for the ongoing elections. The Congress refused to fund my election campaign. Besides, there has been no funding for seven candidates contesting assembly elections in Puri Lok Sabha jurisdiction,” said Ms Mohanty.

She said, “I don’t blame the Congress as its finances have been crippled by the Narendra Modi Government. The BJP Government wants to win election by paralysing the Congress, the main Opposition party. Suppressing Opposition and winning election unethically is their ploy.”

Ms Mohanty, who had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the Congress ticket from Puri, alleged that Odisha Congress in-charge Ajoy Kumar asked her to fight using her own funds. “I was a salaried professional journalist who entered electoral politics 10 years ago. I have given all I have into my campaign in Puri. I tried a public donation drive to support my campaign for progressive politics without much success so far. I also tried to cut down the projected campaign spending to the minimum,” she mentioned.

Following her nomination for the Puri Lok Sabha seat, Ms Mohanty had also tried to arrange funds through crowd-funding. She shared a UPI QR code and other account details on her social media account seeking donations to contest the elections.

She said she would remain a loyal worker of the Congress, but had to take the drastic step as she was unable to raise enough funds on her own and the party was not giving her any.

Ms Mohanty was also unhappy with the Congress over the selection of candidates for seven Assembly segments under the Puri Lok Sabha constituency and had reportedly requested party seniors to change the candidates in some of the seats. However, the party didn’t pay heed to her.

“I found less-deserving candidates getting Congress tickets in four Assembly segments. I took it up with the Congress leadership. I had been assured that these four candidates would be changed and winnable candidates would replace existing ones. But that did not happen,” said the Congress leader who returned her ticket on May 3.

Ms Mohanty was critical of ‘vulgar display’ of financial muscle power of the BJP and the BJD candidates in the Puri Lok Sabha seat. BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra and former Mumbai Police Commissioner and BJD leader Arup Patnaik have filed nomination for the Puri seat.

Both the BJP and the BJD candidates had already spent taxpayers’ money for campaigning their parties before the model code of conduct came into force, she said.

When asked the minimum fund she required for her campaign, the Congress leader said, “I would require ₹5 lakh for distributing one Nyaya card containing five pledges of party among all families. The campaign materials and transportation cost for reaching out to every corner of Assembly seat require huge fund.”

“I tried everything to mobilise funds through crowd-funding, but failed to get enough response. I wanted to run simple campaign without resorting to flaunting financial muscle. Besides, I also believe in value-based politics,” she remarked.

Ms Mohanty, third daughter of former Union Minister late Brajamohan Mohanty, had fought 2014 election on Congress tickets and came second. She had polled 45,000 votes higher than her BJP rival.

In 2019, she was denied a ticket, while another journalist, Satya Prakash Nayak, was fielded by the Congress. While the BJP narrowly lost the election, the Congress’ vote share plunged drastically from 25% to 3.94% from 2014 to 2019.

Meanwhile, the former Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely, who quit the Congress last week citing party’s seat-adjustments with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, on Saturday returned to the BJP. While quitting the Congress post, he had claimed that he would remain in the Congress and would not join any other party but proved himself wrong within days.

In a letter to Mr Kharge, Mr Lovely had pointed to the jailing of many AAP ministers in connection with corruption cases. “Still, the Congress formed an alliance with Arvind Kejriwal’s party for the Lok Sabha elections,” he had said. Mr Lovely had quit as the party’s Delhi chief in 2015 too. He joined BJP in 2017, but returned to the Congress nine months later.

Mr Lovely joined the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, BJP general secretary Vinod Tawde and Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva. Along with Mr Lovely, former Congress MLAs Raj Kumar Chauhan, Naseeb Singh, and Neeraj Basoya, and former Youth Congress president Amit Mallik also joined the BJP.



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