A crucial point that came up during the investigations into the corporate espionage scam was that several corporates had made huge political donations to political parties so that they could lobby. I
It has been found during the investigations that corporates had lobbied with politicians to ensure posting of their favoured bureaucrats in some ministries so that they could access crucial documents.
Should donations by corporates continue to exist or not?
Are corporate donations to political parties doing good or bad to the nation especially after what we saw in the corporate espionage scam?
Professor Trilochan Shastry, the founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms which has brought in election reforms including transparency in candidate and political party information for the first time since Independence says that corporate dependency could come down if people contribute to political parties.
In this interview with Oneindia, Professor Shastry says that, the answer to the problem is not choking corporate funding, but finding better ways of streamlining it.
Oneindia: Can political parties do away with corporate funding? It has been seen that these are not charitable donations.
Prof Shastry: Doing away with corporate funding for political parties is not the solution. Political parties need to function and need legitimate funds to fight the elections. A party cannot run without funds.
If corporate funding to political parties is stopped this would increase the inflow of black money which would be a disaster. At least now political parties declare the funds that they have got from the corporates and other sources and this has ensured in some amount of transparency.
Oneindia: Is everything that is being donated being declared?
Prof Shastry: I do not think so. The funding declared and the money that the political parties are getting is very different. There is still a good number of illegitimate funding that is coming in which needs to be checked.
This is a major issue and needs to be tackled step by step. Different countries have dealt with this issue in different ways. India too will have to do so and streamline the inflow of money.
Oneindia: Can you suggest some mechanisms on how to streamline this issue?
Prof Shastry: Currently there is no limit on what the corporates give to political parties. I feel that a limit must be fixed. If a party or a corporate house is found exceeding that limit strict fines or penalties must be imposed.
There is a need to take strict legal action in such cases. Moreover the Election Commission of India which keeps a watch should up the ante and ensure that strict punishment is handed out if funds more than the prescribed amount is donated.
Oneindia: Is there any way of doing away with corporate dependency?
Prof Shastry: It may be tough, but not impossible. I feel that if every Indian comes out and contributes to a political party even if it is Rs 5 then this issue could be addressed. Not only does this make the political party answerable to the public, but will also decrease corporate dependency to a large extent.
In my view at least 90 per cent of what the political parties get in form of donations should be from the public. This would change the scenario a great deal.
Oneindia: Would political parties prefer it if only people contribute?
Prof Shastry: Not at all. Political parties would not want to reduce corporate dependence. If 90 per cent of the funds are from the public then they are answerable to more people.
For now I think the Election Commission of India is doing a good job is keeping a track on the funding. However I feel that political parties could do much more on the issue of donation and funding.