Transparency in party funding

The Centre has decided to exempt the bank deposits and property of the political parties from the purview of income-tax. Also, anyone can deposit any amount of money in demonetized 500 and 1000-rupee notes in bank accounts of the parties, with no questions asked. In view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s jihad against black money (which prodded him to demonetize high denomination currency notes), his government’s discrimination between the common people and the political parties is inexplicable. It is common knowledge that dubious donations from dubious donors find their way into the coffers of the political parties for an unstated quid pro quo. This nexus has to be broken and details of funding of political parties must be transparent and put in public domain.

It is also common knowledge that the corporate houses and the trading community pay large sums of money as donations to the ruling party – irrespective of which party it is. Documents that came to light during the Niira Radia tape controversy revealed the extent to which the corporate lobby fixed even cabinet appointments. The corporate houses also influence decisions about posting of bureaucrats in specific posts. It is little wonder that many such bureaucrats join the private sector on retirement. The subterranean ramifications of institutionalized corruption cannot be destroyed by simplistic methods like demonetization. The recovery of huge quantities of new currency notes of five hundred and one thousand rupees from different persons at a time when common people are  being turned away empty-handed by the banks every day has exposed the complicity of a section of bank officials with the corrupt lot.

The Prime Minister cannot succeed in eradicating black money unless the political parties, including his own, are made to disclose the funds they receive. The money donated along with the identity of the donor must be made known to the public by the political parties in their websites. As far as funding of elections by different parties is concerned, the ideal would be State funding of elections. The TMC and the AAP have already proposed this measure. Both the Centre and the Election Commission should think seriously about State-funding. In a democracy, contesting parties are supposed to get a level playing field. The way election expenses are rising from one poll to another, smaller parties stand no chance of participating effectively, far less winning, in an election battle. Income-tax exemptions given to the political parties must be withdrawn forthwith.

Thursday, 22 December, 2016