To cleanse electoral funding, this year’s budget had proposals such as issuance of election bonds and reduction of the limit for cash contributions to political parties.
Why did you call these flawed and inadequate?
The intent is good, but one of the proposals is inadequate, the other useless. Election bonds are welcome but more needs to be done. For example, the anonymity proposed for the contributor therein is only going to worsen the situation. There is no need for keeping the identity of buyers of electoral bonds a secret. The proposal of reducing cash contributions from Rs 20,000 per donation to Rs 2,000 per donation is completely meaningless. It is of no use.
Public funding of elections has been under discussion for long. What is holding back implementation?
Well, there are several challenges, no doubt. Different parties have different views on how to make it feasible. There is one argument that we do not have enough resources. I do not agree with that. Then, CPM for example argues that parties and candidates must not be allowed to spend anything from their own once state funding is ensured. This too, I think, is a bit stretched. But all these can be discussed. I think the biggest hurdle continues to be lack of political will to push it.
You have worked on a proposal. How much is it going to cost?
Not more than Rs 5,000 to 6,000 crore for parliamentary elections. That is roughly in the same range as the money allocated for the MPLAD scheme. I believe this is not too much, especially if you see the kind of benefits it will generate. Of course, if we include elections of state assemblies, or other elections, then we are talking about creation of a much bigger kitty.
How will the independents be funded?
I am proposing that independents be asked to garner public support for their candidacy. And if they reach a minimum threshold of signatures, they can become eligible for receiving public funds. Similarly, newer parties or individuals within parties should also be able to access these funds.
How is public funding going to help?
Besides reducing the dependence of political parties on corporates, and thereby reducing corruption, it will help in increasing the competitiveness of political parties, specially the smaller ones, and provide a level-playing field to them. By the way, I am also arguing for doing away with expenditure restrictions on candidates. I would much rather have stricter terms of disclosure.