State funding of polls not practical, says Govt

NEW DELHI
9 Feb 2017

Government today dismissed the suggestion for State funding of elections, saying it is not practical in the Indian context, even as it expressed openness to modify the Budget proposal for capping cash donations at Rs 2000 per source and issuing electoral bonds. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who in Budget had proposed reducing the limit of cash donations to political parties from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 per source, said the recommendation had come from the Election Commission. "The Rs 2000 limit, that we have given, is the Election Commission recommendation. It has suggested to lower it from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 to make it stringent. If there is consensus for ending it (the cap), then it is a different issue. We will discuss it during Finance Bill," he said while replying to a debate on Budget in the Lok Sabha. "If somebody has any improvement to suggest to this idea, we welcome this. Because it is a matter which concerns all of us, we have put a proposal on the table at the stage of Finance Bill it will discussed," he added. Jaitley, while responding to suggestions made by various members with regard to the political donations during the debate, said, "We can improve on it but don't suggest problem for every solution. If you suggest problem for every solution then the present status quo which is not an ideal situation will exist." To demands for State funding of elections voiced by parties like Trinamool Congress, the Finance Minister said, "I am open to the idea. But your optimism is based on the fact that when State funding starts only State-provided funds will be used in elections and nobody will use private funds in the elections. So your optimism is based on this one belief which is not consistent with Indian reality." Lamenting that even 70 years after Independence bulk of India's politics is funded through unaccounted money, he said, "We don't want an argument where people have problem with every solution. And that is the tragedy of political funding in India. Whichever solution you suggest, people will suggest the problem arising out of that". People prefer to give donations in cash because it has anonymity, Jaitley said, adding "we have made a major serious effort to legitimise this. We have said that you pay by cheque, then donor and donee both will get tax advantage. We have said pay by digital mode." Stressing that issuing electoral bond would ensure that only legitimate, tax paid, accounted money comes into the political system, he said the identity of donor will be kept secret since the Banking Regulation Act prohibits sharing of details of bank transactions to anyone, including the government. (PTI)