Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that his party’s MPs and MLAs will have to make the details of their banking transactions public between November 8 (the day demonetisation was announced) and December 31 (the deadline for depositing the demonetised currency in banks). A commendable move. Isn’t it time the PM tries to set a precedent by making his party’s funding and spending public, since he claims to be the champion of transparency and prime crusader against black money.
Several voices have criticised the announcement as a ham handed attempt to portray transparency and honesty among his party’s elected representatives. The voices include one of his most vociferous critics — Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He seems to have a point when he says that the leaders should make the details public at least six months before the demonetisation scheme was announced. His party should also do the same.
To make this move more appealing, the BJP should make details public relating to its revenue and spending on its party website. This will have a larger impact on the way politics is being conducted in the country.
Also, when the government wants to have access to each and every detail of a citizen’s life — personal and financial — why should the political parties be left out of accountability? When a citizen has to give details to every penny earned and the sources of earning, why do political parties have a freedom to evade accountability if party donations are below a certain amount? Why should they remain outside the reach of RTI when they enjoy benefits from the government.
Every election, thousands of crores of rupees are spent on election campaigns by political parties through party funds. Huge spending continues in the name of party activities in following years. This huge black hole in accountability should be addressed as well.
It is safe to say that this is an issue where the Opposition will even stand with the BJP. The current level of insulation in political party funding after almost seven decades of democratic rule proves the intention, or lack of it.
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