New Delhi

The Election Commission today claimed there was consensus among political parties on banning direct funding by companies, saying they favoured setting up a poll panel-controlled "national electoral trust" for corporate donations.

The announcement came after a daylong seminar on "Political Finance and Law Commission Recommendations", where consultations were held with various parties, eminent persons from different fields and former chief election commissioners.

"All the political parties were ready that there should be no political funding by corporates.... They all agreed that use of money and muscle power in elections should be checked," chief election commissioner H.S. Brahma said.

Representatives of some 30 parties, including the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress, attended the seminar.

Brahma said there was unanimity among the parties that a "national electoral trust", preferably under the Election Commission, be formed where companies could give donations, which could then be distributed among the parties.

There was no unanimity on the formula for distributing the money but former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi suggested that the allocation be based on votes polled by each party.

A large number of parties, including the Congress, the CPM and Trinamul, batted for state funding of elections. "Around 70 per cent of the political parties favoured state funding of elections," Brahma said.

The law commission has, however, rejected the idea of state funding of elections.

The seminar today discussed an earlier report of the poll panel, which had cited a law commission report. The poll panel report had said the law commission had "recognised that complete (state) funding of elections is presently not a pragmatic option in India, considering the economic and developmental status of the country".

The poll panel has been holding consultations on electoral reforms for years but has been able to achieve little since legislative powers rest with the central government. In this context, there was consensus that the panel should be given the power to frame rules to make the election process more transparent.

Election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said there was broad consensus on at least eight issues, the main ones being:

  • No corporate donation to parties;
  • Power to poll panel to make rules;
  • Curb on money power in elections; and
  • A national electoral trust under the panel's control for corporate donations.

"Political parties and the EC have to live happily like a husband and wife," Brahma said. "There could be differences but the aim should be to cleanse the electoral system."

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