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Electoral reforms immediate need of hour to check political corruption

By Avinash

A latest report published by a Delhi-based NGO, Associationfor Democratic Reforms (ADR), has revealed that nearly 90 per cent of donations received by political parties in between financial years 2004-05 and 2012-13 are from unknown sources. This raises a pertinent question over the transparency of political parties who have always shied away from making the source of their funds public.

As per the Supreme Court's ruling, the political parties are required to furnish PAN details of donors contributing Rs 20,000 and above. But, even the authorities like income tax department and the Election Commission have no details about 90 per cent of the donors of national political parties.

According to ADR's report, total income of national parties including Congress and the BJP, for the financial year 2012-13 was a staggering Rs 991.20 crore. But, the parties gave a list of just 3,777 donors (donating Rs 20,000 or above) contributing to just Rs 99.14 crore. Therefore, just 10 per cent of the total donations made are from known sources.

Congress has claimed that its total income was Rs 425 crore for 2012-13, while according to the BJP it's earning was no more than Rs 324 crore for the same period. But there is no denying the fact that the actual expenditure of these political parties during polls is much higher than these figures.

This once again brings one's attention to the necessity of bringing transparency in the funding of political parties and making stringent law by amending the Public Representation Act, 1950. The Election Commission of India has been asking the political parties for decades to bring electoral reforms but they have been deftly exploiting the loopholes in the donation declaration system and denying in doing the needful in this regard.

The ADR report further states that corporates and business houses made 87% of the total donations to national parties between FY 2004-05 and 2011-12. Out of Rs 435.87 crores collected by national parties between FY 2004-05 and 2011-12, Rs 378.89 crores was donated by corporates and business houses.

Unaccounted corporate funding to the political parties actually promotes crony capitalism in the economy which in turn holds it back from balanced growth as it denies level playing field for new emerging corporate houses.

The incumbent Government's decision to ban direct foreign funding to NGOs operating in India, till they fulfil stringent regulatory norms, could be justified only when similar provisions are made for the political parties as well.

It is the need of the hour to bring names of the donors above Rs 20,000 in public domain to put a restraint over illegal funding to political parties and flow of black money in market.

Thus, it will be a daunting task for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised to curb the issue of black money during his poll campaigns. What will be more interesting to see is, how Modi is going to fill the loopholes in the system by ensuring stringent laws and electoral reforms.

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