A day after exit polls predicted a drubbing for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, senior Congress leader and Union Minister Jairam Ramesh rose to the defence of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, terming him an “indefatigable” campaigner.
“He must have addressed over 125 rallies in every nook and corner of the country. He brought spirit into our campaign and took on not just BJP and Narendra Modi but also articulated what our party stood for,” Ramesh said.
He dismissed Monday’s exit polls and said they would be proved “wrong” like in 2004 and 2009.
Ramesh said the BJP and Modi had “outfunded” the Congress, with their spending reaching an “obscene level”and called for a “serious expenditure audit”.
He also lashed out at BJP for a “communal” campaign.
Asked about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s restricted campaign, Ramesh said the PM did go out and campaign but only “where he felt comfortable”.
Ramesh also demanded a "serious expenditure audit" of the money spent by parties in the just-concluded polls.
"This has been a difficult campaign because the Congress has been out-funded by BJP," Ramesh said here.
"The amount of money that the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate (Modi) has spent is astronomical... I think obscene levels of funding. But clearly our level of spending was peanuts compared to what Mr Modi was able to raise," he added.
Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma have alleged that BJP spent between Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore on its high-decibel campaign, which was unprecedented in the history of Indian elections.
In an interaction with mediapersons at the Indian Women's Press Corps here, Ramesh also came out with a proposal to check overspending during poll campaigning and suggested abolition of the MP-LAD scheme and using the money to state- fund elections.
A whopping Rs 30,000 crore is estimated to have been spent cumulatively by the government, political parties and candidates in the nine-phased polls which started on April 7 and concluded on May 12.
Referring to the BJP's publicity drive in the print media, Ramesh said that "front page ads in newspapers" given by Modi "will tell you the story -- the amount of money that has been spent".
"Taking a frontpage ad in newspapers is not cheap. Congress didn't take out even one full frontpage ad," he said.
Ramesh, who was Congress's chief campaigner in Seemandhra and Telangana regions of Andhra Pradesh, said he