When the Maharashtra Congress (MPCC) Chief Manikrao Thakre and another senior leader from Vidarbha, Satish Chaturvedi, were caught by TV cameras discussing party funds last week, a rather well-known secret of the Congress party was let out. The two were discussing how the Chief Minister and other ministers were forced to contribute funds for Sonia Gandhi’s rally at Wardha in the Vidarbha region. After this blooper, Thakre’s future in the party looked bleak. But Sonia Gandhi went on to praise his organisational skills, quelling all speculation about his fate.
In every political party, ministers are expected to contribute to the party’s coffers. It is common knowledge that in the Grand Old Party too, ministerial longevity is determined by their ‘performance’ as measured by their ability to make the mandatory contributions. Sources say that when the AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra comes visiting, few ministers want to meet him—fearing new cash demands.
When the late Prabha Rau was MPCC chief, her main grouse against then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was that he never did anything to fatten the party coffers. Motilal Vora, Vayalar Ravi and even Margaret Alva are said to have often complained about Deshmukh’s disregard for the party’s financial well-being. This, when the system of contributions has virtually been institutionalised— with a rate card for ministers, MPs and MLAs, say sources. The rate card even specifies how many industrialists and ‘friends’ are to be contacted for party funds by each ‘public servant’.
“Anyone, whether an MP, MLA or minister, will not like to wring his sources dry for funds, as they are the same people who fund election expenses. There has always been a problem in getting funds for the party from chief ministers, ministers and other elected representatives,” says an incumbent MPCC office bearer. However, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, unlike Deshmukh, is an eager contributor. For the Wardha rally, going by the Chaturvedi-Thakre exchange, he stumped up Rs 2 crore.
Now that Thakre’s ‘organisational skills’ are getting him pats on the back, maybe some of these skills can be used to keep Vidarbha’s farmers from committing suicide.