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Tucked away in the Budget proposals is an intriguing line on election funding.

Written by The Indian Express |
July 7, 2009 11:47:22 pm

Tucked away in the Budget proposals is an intriguing line on election funding. The FM has moved 100 per cent tax deduction for donations for electoral funds to improve transparency in political funding. Details are awaited,but the objective is

welcome. Ways of cleaning up campaign finance have been so

elusive that the acquisition of transparency must be incremental.

Every narrative about corruption in India hovers so long over the compulsion of political parties to find the monies for fighting elections,that the democratic exercise of having the people choose their representatives is somehow seen to be a cause. Many solutions have been considered. For instance,state funding of elections,a choice favoured by those fearful of big individual/ corporate donations to political parties. But the problem is not just that India’s electoral democracy is so layered — Parliament,state legislatures,local bodies — that the funds required could be unrealistically huge. It is also that in a crowded,multi-party democracy like ours,all models of public funding disadvantage smaller or new political parties.

There are,correctly,concerns about private funding for elections and political parties,foremost being the influence this could bring upon governments to reward donors. But tracking possible quid pro quos is best accomplished by bringing transparency to a political party’s accounts book. Already,the Right to Information Act has been used to get details about corporate funds for parties. Incentivising donors to declare their contributions too could make the exercise more open. A certain squeamishness prevails in this country about discussing candidates’ need for funds and ways to get them. And entrenched assumptions about the murkiness of the exercise restrain many individuals from making their small contributions. Cleaning up and being seen to clean up election finance could bring the aam admi into the picture.

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