Public Funding or State Funding of Elections Counter-intuitive!

These day many experts in India are talking about Public funding or state funding of elections.

It simply means that instead of political parties, or candidates, the Nation must fund the election expenditures of the political parties or contestants.

How this will be accomplished?

There are many suggestions. For example some of the suggestions are,

Creation of a National Election Fund, where anyone who wants to support any political party or candidate can deposit money. The funds thus created would be democratically distributed to candidates fighting elections. How this money will be distributed? On the basis of the vote share.

Another suggestion is to make some arrangement where the Nation(Country) earmarks some fixed amount for an election. Out of this amount, any candidate or political party is reimbursed on cost per vote won basis (i.e. if a candidate gets 3.5 Lakhs votes then he will paid Rupees 3.5 crore). Other candidates are paid in the same manner.

The above suggestions and many others look quite convincing. But they a counter-intuitive (opposite to common sense).

Why I think so?

As they try to provide very simple solutions to a complex process. And simple solutions are not always the best solutions.

For instance, the above solutions don’t take into account, one basic question: Why does a person fund a political party or a candidate?

  • The person likes the political party or the candidate (This includes emotional connect as well)
  • The person likes the political ideology of the party or the candidate
  • The person wants a certain political party or candidate excel over the competitors
  • The person wants the political party or candidate take note of him/her, through the funding
  • The person wants some of his/her vested interests to be served by way of funding the most likely winner.
  • The person wants and sees NOT all VOTES as equal
  • There are other aspirations as well

In simple, anyone who gives such funding exercises a choice and believes in one philosophy: All votes are not Equal. A political funding is just another way of living that belief.

That said, when a Nation democratizes a vote in money terms or goes for State funding or public funding of elections, then the Nation does three things wrong:

One, it demotivates the people to fund political parties in a transparent or non-corrupt manner (Reminds us of one of those stories where the king asks its people to deposit milk in a big tank anonymously. At the end of the day, when the tank is checked, all one finds there is water);

Two, it makes information regarding funding even more opaque. Because the fund givers who want their vested interests to be served through Government policy change or by other means, will still be funding political parties. Although with other means.

Three, it breaks the system of voter empowerment through information at voter level. Political cadres are not created solely on the basis of ideological bent.

As of now, the best way to tackle non-transparent political funding seems to be making such funding transparent. This must be done with every paisa received. Neither small nor big funding must go anonymous.