The Election Commission of India (ECI) endorsed a set of radical reforms in the area of electoral funding this week, including the introduction of a cap on expenditure incurred by political parties during poll season and also on donations made by individuals and corporations to parties.
The poll panel committed itself to pursuing the above proposed reforms, and more, as it adopted the ‘New Delhi Declaration on Political Finance 2015’ on Wednesday at the end of a two-day regional conference organised by IIIDEM, an intergovernmental body made up of election management bodies of different countries.
The conference was also attended by representatives of national parties including the BJP, Congress, CPI and CPM.
According to top sources in the ECI, the poll panel will soon set up an internal committee to “draft reforms based on the declaration” and, subsequently, forward them to the Law Ministry for implementation.
The declaration, which aims at improving “architecture for monitoring of expenditures and contributions”, advocates spending limits for different political parties during election season.
It supports a common expenditure limit that would include the expenses of the candidate and the political party he/she represents in the election.
Currently, the ECI only tracks the candidates’ expenses.
There is no cap on how much a political party can spend.
The declaration guidelines also talk about regulating “private contributions” to political parties.
“To ensure that the citizen remains at the heart of a democracy and not the interests of large donors, it is reasonable to limit the amount of private funding that an individual or corporation may donate,” the guidelines state.
Corporate donations, at present, make up a big chunk of the funds raised by national parties in India.
“Anonymous donations should be strictly regulated and if not banned outright, then should be limited to an amount that is considered acceptable and not at risk of unduly influencing the political process,” the guidelines add.
A general code of conduct for the media for election coverage, state funding of polls (in conjunction with decriminalisation of politics and realistic spending limits) and appropriate civil and criminal sanctions for effective enforcement are among the other recommendations.