Instead of Curbing Political Funding in India, …Encourage it!

Good intentioned people are assuming that the best way forward to electoral reforms is to curb political funding. Unfortunately they’re not correct.

After Union Budget 2017’s provisions on political funding, everyone right from experts to insignificant fund givers to common man are talking about political funding. They are upbeat about the concept and want major reforms in political funding. Their enthusiasm can be understood, as they see curbs on political funding as a way forward towards cleaner and more benevolent Governments.

But unfortunately majority of these people are not thinking in the correct direction.

The assumption that the best way forward to electoral reforms is to curb political funding is not correct. Actually the better way out is to encourage the political funding, while at the same time making it transparent.

Some people have some issue with the transparency. According to them, if their vote is secret then why their funding to a political party is made open.

Actually, the need for transparency is not important if you’re a card member of a political party. That’s you give nominal funds (membership amount) to the political party. Here you’re simply supporting a political party for its ideology and voting for it.

But if you make a big funding to a political party then your funding needs to be inspected. The best way to do that is by making all political funding (big or small) transparent or made public. As here, you’re not funding the party for its political ideology. You’re funding it for some vested interest to be served. And to get that interest served, you want to skew the policy decisions of the new Government.

The biggest reforms in political funding will be those which encourage political funding and make the funding sources 100 percent known to you, the voter.

An example will be apt here. The biggest beneficiaries of the recent demonetization action, in short term, are the companies in digital payments space. In the absence of transparency in political funding, we will not know whether some of these companies provided funding to political parties before the 2014 General Elections.

To conclude, contesting elections require all kinds of resources. They require money, manpower, and logistics. Taking into account the level of political understanding of Indians and the population of the country, contesting an election at any level is a big task. Hence the moment you support any attempts at curbing political funding, you shut your eyes to reality. This results in two things: One, unaccounted spending in an election and two; ignorant voter.

You as an intelligent voter don’t want both the things to happen to you. If put correctly, as an ideal voter you want to know the correct amount of money required to fight an election. In addition, you also want to know who funded for which political party in the last election. You also want to know the biggest fund givers of any political party.

Last but not the least, many experts are vouching for State Funding or Public Funding of Elections. It’s again an impractical and counter intuitive solution.