Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Transparency in electoral funding


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Apropos of the news “SBI submits electoral bonds details to EC as per SC order” (ST March 13, 2024), it is encouraging that the State Bank has at last on Tuesday transmitted Electoral Bonds data to the Election Commission by the stipulated time of 5.30 PM in adherence to the direction of the Supreme Court. The Election Commission of India now assumes the responsibility of uploading all relevant details on its official website by 5 PM on March 15, in line with the explicit instructions of the Supreme Court. As one of the electors among over 900 million electors in the country I look forward eagerly to March 15, 2024 to have a look at the Electoral Bond data. It is important for “We the people of India” to know who donated how much and to whom. Transparency and accountability are the key to a vibrant democracy.
There are alternatives to Electoral Bonds for political funding in India. For small contributions, political parties can encourage donations through electronic transfer. This method ensures transparency and traceability, as transactions leave a digital trail. Donors can directly transfer funds to party accounts, making the process more accountable. Another viable alternative is contributing to Electoral Trusts. The trust acts as intermediaries between donors and political parties. While the donor’s identity remains confidential, the trust ensures compliance with legal requirements. Although not ideal, cash payments remain an option. However, parties must declare cash donations exceeding Rs 20,000 in their annual contribution reports. This requirement is mandated by Section 29(C) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Exploring public funding mechanisms can reduce reliance on private donations. Government can allocate funds to political parties based on their performance or vote share. Public financing ensures financial stability without compromising transparency. These alternatives aim to balance between funding needs and transparency, promoting a healthier democratic process in India.
A study, “Towards Public Financing of elections and political parties in India: Lessons from Global experiences” by Niranjan Sahoo examines different public funding models and their effectiveness. It delves into the context of such reforms, identifies variations in implementation, and offers feasible options for India. The paper emphasizes the need to reduce dependence on illicit money, equalize political opportunities, and enhance transparency and accountability in democratic processes. While India cannot directly replicate other countries’ experiences, there is much to learn from successful models. Another case study “Financing Democracy: Funding of political parties and election campaigns in India” presents the current system of public funding of political parties and campaigns in India. It discusses the major challenges related to electoral and financial transparency. The study sheds light on India’s unique context and the complexities of implementing public financing. Research “Does Public Financing motivate electoral challengers” explores the impact of public financing on the number of candidates running for state legislative office. Using panel data, the study estimates the effect of public funding programs implemented across multiple states. It provides insight into how public financing influences electoral dynamics and candidate participation. These case studies highlight the importance of public financing, its challenges, and the potential benefits for democratic processes worldwide.
However, there are challenges in implementing public funding for political parties. Managing public funding can be complex and bureaucratic. Designing and implementing systems to allocate funds efficiently requires careful planning. Ensuring transparency while navigating administrative processes can be challenging. Defining eligibility criteria for receiving public funds is crucial. Deciding which parties qualify and how much funding they receive can be contentious. Striking a balance between inclusivity and preventing misuse is a challenge. Distributing funds equitably among various political parties is a challenge. Ensuring that smaller parties receive adequate support without disadvantaging larger ones requires careful consideration, as political dynamics and party representation play a role in this distribution.
Effective monitoring mechanisms are essential to prevent misuse of public funds. Ensuring that parties use the funds for legitimate campaign purposes and adhere to reporting requirements is challenging. Oversight bodies must be vigilant and independent. Systems must be carefully designed to prevent abuse of public funds. Political parties could exploit loopholes or find ways to divert funds for purposes other than election campaigns. Safeguards are necessary to maintain integrity and prevent corruption. Even with public funding, outside spending by independent groups such as corporations or interest groups may still dominate the political landscape. Public funding alone may not significantly reduce overall campaign spending. While public funding aims to enhance transparency and fairness, addressing these challenges is crucial for its successful implementation in political financing.
Yours etc.,
VK Lyngdoh,
Via email

CAA is atonement of historical injustices

Framing of rules to pave the way for implementation of the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) will remain in the annals of history of our country as one of the key decisions taken by any Government after the partition of India. The partition of India on religious grounds was purely a political decision which made lakhs of people ‘displaced’ in their own country because they had been wrongly termed as ‘refugees’. Post 1947, the population of religious minorities in West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) both of which became Islamic theocratic country, had been brutally persecuted leaving them with no other option but to migrate to different parts of their own country, which being a Hindu majority country embraced democracy and plurality as their polity over theocracy.
The condition of religious minorities in Afghanistan, a Taliban ruled Islamic country is also known to everyone. The minority population, particularly followers of Islamic faith in India, post partition, has steadily grown in numbers and there is no report of any migration of Muslims to the neighbouring Islamic countries for fear of life or threat of conversion from the majority community. Had there been any such real threat, there would have been large scale migration of Indian Muslims to neighbouring Islamic countries. It is a hard truth that all over the globe, majority Muslim nations almost uniformly persecute religious minorities and practice state sponsored hostility towards minority or non-approved religious groups. Even in the only Muslim majority state in India (now a Union Territory), the Kashmiri Pandits had to face persecution from the majority Muslim population barely two decades ago and became “refugees” in their own country. By legislating CAA, the Government of India has at least made an effort to atone the historical injustices meted out to our fellow countrymen for no fault of their own. The opposition to CAA in few pockets of our country particularly in the north east, that too by communities enjoying special protection and privilege under the Constitution of India is truly baffling.
Yours etc.,
N K Kehar


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