The Election Commission (EC) wants a national debate on measures needed to curb the use of black money in polls, including getting powers to investigate and award punishments, ensure enhanced state funding and stricter transparency norms for political parties.
In a background note for national consultation on political finance, the poll watchdog has shunned its earlier reluctance to back state funding of polls and said it was open to the idea of expanding in-kind subsidy for the election campaign, with simultaneous reforms for transparency and accountability of political parties and candidates.
Most of the national parties have failed to put in place a mechanism to disclose information to people, despite an order by the Central Information Commission in June 2013. The parties have also not followed the EC’s transparency guidelines with full vigour.
Both the Congress and the BJP have not submitted their audited accounts on income and expenditure to the EC since 2010.
Parties usually inform the source of their funds to the EC for only 20% of their total contributions as rules say they are required to disclose name of donors for contributions over Rs 20,000.
With total transparency missing, the EC’s note says if the parties receive donation from prohibited companies or source, in violation of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, there is no penal provision to take action.
The note indicates that most candidates undervalue their expenditure in polls with just 11.6% of the winning candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections declaring having spent 80 to 100% of the expenditure limit of Rs 70 lakh per constituency.
In view of the limitations, the EC wants parties to disclose every penny they receive and remove the protection they have provided to themselves through legislative measures.