IIPM and Arindam Chaudhuri's initiative
New Delhi

Elections are more about redirecting black money

India’s tryst with democracy might remain a tryst only. Not only the three pillars of democracy stand abused but even the fundamental setup of democracy is being tweaked as per convenience. There has been no year when elections in India have been fair, thus elevating a party to power who is most of the time not the first-choice of the masses.

Even the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) has criticized the current electoral system where channeling massive funds from various sources is the veritable cornerstone of the electoral corruption. In spite of the Chief Information Commission declaring political parties as ‘public authorities’ in 2008, the balance sheets of these parties including the Congress and the BJP for the year 2010 revealed incomes that were to the tune of Rs.200 crore and more, which was against the estimated expenditure of Rs.3,000 crores (as estimated by Election Commission). If Wikileaks reports are to be believed, the political parties inserted cash (worth more than $13 million) with the morning newspapers along with instructions of their choice of candidates. Another report by the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, released on January 2011, revealed that most of the political parties declared a major part of their donations to be over Rs.20,000. For instance, NCP declared the entire donation received to be in sums greater than Rs.20,000 while the correspondent figures for INC and CPI stand out to be over 50 per cent. Interestingly, BJP declared merely 19 per cent of the total donation to be in sums of over Rs.20,000 but in absolute terms the party topped the list with total nontaxable donations of Rs.5,500 lakhs. The report further revealed that Bharti Electoral Trust donated Rs.17 crore to different political parties. Similarly, Torrent Power Ltd. and General Electoral Trust were leading donors to political parties. A simple analysis indicates how it’s a mutually convenient solution for both. In case political parties want to forego tax, they need to simply club donations and file it as sum of more than Rs.20,000 and if donors want to forego their tax (and keep their name anonymous) they just need to make donations in 'tax-friendly' denominations.

The Supreme Court ruling in 2003 mandated all electoral candidates to provide details of their assets, liabilities and criminal records. And today nearly one-third of the MPs (158 of 543) have some or other criminal charges against them. More than 70 MPs are alleged to have criminal cases. The MPs belonging to caste based parties of UP viz. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party are most corrupt with 60 per cent of them facing criminal charges, BJP has about 16 per cent corrupt MPs (19 out of 116) and Congress with about 5 per cent (12 out of 205).

The era of booth capturing and road blocking has gone. Today, a huge amount of illicit money has been channelised through election campaigning, lobbying, cash distribution, bribes and above all in scandals in the lines of ‘cash-for-vote.’ Over 80 countries today follow the concept of state-funded elections to dodge such malpractices during elections.

Here, the moot point is just not about the enormous volume of black money being spent in the elections but more about the very essence of democracy. When the lawmakers and the MPs are themselves involved in scams and scandals, it would be silly to expect otherwise.

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