Sajjad Hasan had to borrow money to celebrate Eid as his employer, the Congress party, has not paid him any stipend for the past two months. The 65-year-old veteran does not want to talk about his hardships since it will dent the image of the party he has served for four decades.
Sajjad is not the only one to be up against heavy financial odds, since most of the 100- odd employees of the grand old party in Uttar Pradesh face the same predicament. Earlier this month, Satyadeo Tripathi, the chairman of the unit’s media department, was stranded on a city street as his SUV ran out of fuel. An embarrassed Tripathi had to call the party office and the vehicle had to be towed back. As part of an austerity drive, senior functionaries are being reimbursed for just 5 litres of petrol per day.
All party activities have come under a cloud because of the financial crunch: routine press conferences have been affected and this year even iftar parties during Ramzan were affected.
An iftar was held at the party headquarters but state unit chief Nirmal Khatri had to drastically prune the guest list to ‘manageable’ limits. The iftar was a modest affair, with none of the gloss that last year’s celebrations had, admitted Khatri, while stating that this year’s iftar had been facilitated by the chanda (contributions) made by partymen. From the time of HN Bahuguna in the 1970s, the Congress has always had iftar at the party headquarters. This year, however, it was an iftar sans frills.
The monthly wage and establishment costs packet has been reduced by half from the Rs 15 lakh it had been before June.
Even as the situation in the Akhilesh Yadav-ruled state goes from bad to worse, the Congress has run its political campaign on a shoestring budget. Statements from party leaders are given by hand to media offices or by using the Internet. That is all the party is doing to project its line.
The state executive of the party was dissolved soon after the Lok Sabha polls. Khatri has virtually stopped visiting the party office, spending most of his time either in New Delhi or his native place Faizabad. Rising crime and communal tension notwithstanding, the party rank and file is hardly enthused into mobilising against the Akhilesh government.
However, Khatri denied that two months’ stipend had not been paid to wholetimers, even as he admitted that the party’s monthly package has been reduced by half. He said that arrears for June will be cleared soon.
AICC treasurer Motilal Vora, on his part, denied that the financial package for the UP unit had been slashed. “Like other units, we provide for Uttar Pradesh as per the unit’s requirements and I am not aware that the grant for the state has been slashed,” he says.
The party’s state unit treasurer Harish Bajpayee refused to divulge details about the party’s financial crunch, saying that it was an “internal matter”, but added in the same breath: “There are problems but we are trying to cope to the best of our ability.” He said that the Congress was wedded to socialism and was not financed by money bags.
After the General Election, the Congress has also stopped media junkets even when senior party leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others go to their respective constituencies. Soon after the polls, the party’s telephone lines were surrendered and the 16 SUVs given to party functionaries were also withdrawn. Only four office bearers — heads of the disciplinary committee, women’s wing and the media unit, besides the treasurer — can now use the party’s transport facilities.
The rank and file is clueless about the financial crunch and is agitated about the misappropriation and misuse of funds meant for the several Adhikar rallies that Rahul Gandhi had addressed. No proper accounts of the expenses were allegedly made and the statement of expenses incurred was also not sent to the AICC headquarters. Khatri, however, denied that any such misappropriation had taken place.