New Delhi

‘Money makes the mare go,’ is an old saying. A question intermittently asked is who or what makes the mare go in India’s political arena? Who funds the never-ending electoral exercises? It is relevant since even a mohalla-level election needs money. The other given is that nobody finances a political party and an election as charity. There is a quid pro quo and that, taking an ideal, even Utopian view, vitiates democracy.  

Our watchdogs who were hyper-active during the recent anti-corruption campaign luckily continue to be so. A report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) reveals that 90 per cent of political funding in India during 2013-14 was done by the corporate sector. Not surprising, since this sector sought to set national agenda ever since economic reforms were ushered in 25 years ago, particularly, in the last decade.  There are dark hints about some corporate honchos in trouble, either in jail or being investigated, having contributed handsomely to the poll funds this year. Not surprising, but we can leave it at that for want of any evidence. 

ADR says BJP that stormed to power this year and continues on a winning spree in Assembly polls has not furnished this information to the Election Commission.  Since the party had adopted a holier-than-thou posture while in opposition, the Congress has got a stick to beat the BJP with. 

While the BJP’s score remains a mystery, the Congress, then in power, received Rs 11 crore, which was a 408 per cent increase over the previous year. According to the ADR analysis, the donations received by the Congress, the NCP and the CPI in the fiscal year 2013-14 rose to Rs 62.69 crore – an increase of 517 per cent. But rest assured, this is only the tip of the iceberg, the body being unfathomable, comprising black money, hawala and much else. 

Moreover, any single contribution of less than Rs 20,000 need not be accounted for. So, multiple payments of say Rs 19,999 are fine to circumvent the law.  Another ADR report of October 2013 says that three quarters of the funds garnered by the political parties in recent years fall into this category.

According to this report, total income of the national parties during 2004-05 to 2011-12 came from “known donors” and “unknown donors.” Hold your heart, if under the former category, the give-and-take was Rs 435.85 crore, on the latter, it was a whopping Rs 3,674.5 crore. These figures speak for themselves.

Three-fourth of income of political parties cannot be traced to the original donor in India, while this is not so in the case of Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, US, France etc. It is hardly surprising that political parties do not want to come under the RTI Act. Will the BJP, that has not explained its lapse/delay so far, bell the cat?

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