Richie Rich Parties

Money is an important component of everything that we do in life and to do away the role of money whether in politics is wishful thinking. We must understand the sustenance that money gives to the body politic and in fact to everything else around. Given this dynamics of money, one should not take a moral position as far as money in politics goes. And when political parties gather huge amount of money to fund their activities, one should not be shocked or surprised. Recently, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) released a report on the income of 23 major political parties in India relying on the Income Tax returns and a list of donors submitted to the Election Commission for the period 2004-2011. As per the findings, political parties in India have amassed a staggering Rs. 4,662 crore through donation and other sources since 2004, with the ruling Congress at the top with an income of Rs. 2,008 crore followed by BJP at Rs. 994 crore, claimed two NGOs today. Now if this is the income, one can very well imagine the principal amount that these Richie rich political parties must be having. This could be more then the plan outlay of some of the smaller States. Anyway what it important is not why political parties they need some much of money but from where and how do they get the finance from? It is not to say that contribution to a political party is wrong or should not happen but it is only fair to suggest that the source of funding must be in the knowledge of the public and how they are spent must also be made known.

One must remember that political parties have to be accountable to the people—the electorate. This is what distinguishes them from any other association. They have the privilege to gain access to public office and subsequently to the resources of the State. As such, caution has to be taken to ensure that abuse of power and misuse of state resources is not allowed. Campaign finance can be used to infiltrate into decision making processes and thereby corrupt the working of governments. In fact there is a close link between financing of political parties and political corruption. While rich people or wealthy corporate houses may give money, the majority of ordinary voters cannot afford such contribution other than to exercise their voting rights. The choice for many political parties may be between the generous financial contribution of the rich/powerful and the one vote offered by the common man. Invariably a political party will be elected to public office on the votes of the latter but once in power, it is the campaign contributor who will benefit through preferential treatment and policy favours. So the travesty of democracy is that public interest is crucified at the altar of powerful special interest groups/elements. This could also well explain the case that India has been having democratic election with the highest number of people voting. However the majority of people in the country continue to remain among the poorest and thereby giving proof that democracy or development has not benefited the masses. The latest report about how political parties in India are funded could very well explain the failure of our system to deliver “for the people”.