New Delhi, Jan 9: CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Tuesday termed the idea of electoral bonds “regressive” and pitched for state funding of political parties and a ban on flow of corporate funds directly to them.
In a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Yechury demanded a rollback of policies vis-a-vis electoral bonds including retrospective amendment to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to allow indirect political funding by foreign companies and lifting of maximum limit on corporate contributions to political parties.
“Contesting elections is now akin to a business enterprise, possible only for the wealthy. This needs stringent reform. At the outset, a good move will be to ban availability of corporate funds to political parties,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader said.
He said big corporates saw funding of political parties as an “investment” and an easy way to be able to “push policies in directions that suit them”.
“These corporates constitute the supply side of corruption, which is corroding our system. Unless the corporate funding is banned, this problem cannot be solved,” he said.
Advocating state funding of political parties, Yechury said: “No clean-up of political funding is possible minus state funding.
“If like the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), corporates could be asked to donate a part of their earnings to a pool which, in keeping with certain guidelines (like the support individual political parties may have garnered in the previous election, vote-share or the number of seats they have won) it will be a much fairer and transparent way of contributing to the healthy functioning of the Indian democracy.”
Yechury cited Germany’s example where state funding of parties from a corpus apportioned on the basis of seats and vote-share of the parties in the central and state legislatures in the previous elections is done.
He took strong exception to some recent changes introduced by the Modi government in this connection, including introduction of electoral bonds.
“Electoral bonds are a deeply regressive move. They make the donor, beneficiary and the amount — each a vital aspect — a state secret, literally. This shields donors from the gaze of the electorate which needs to know if policies are being made precisely because it helps certain influential donors,” he said.
“Electoral bonds, alongwith the retrospective amendment to the FCRA (which allows indirect political funding by foreign companies) and the lifting of the maximum limit that corporates can contribute to political parties, are the most retrogressive steps taken towards political funding in India and must be rolled back,” he added.
Yechury said that by lifting the maximum limit on political donations by companies, the government had raised the prospect of setting up of shell companies with black money to fund political parties only.