The Bold Voice of J&K

Poll funding

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking political parties on Saturday to shed their resistance to the push for transparency in campaign finance is strengthening the growing estimate that the government is working on a package for measures to reform political funding. In his televised address, the PM invoked people’s anger as he urged political parties to forge a consensus. “Conduct of political parties and politicians and cost of elections invariably gets pushed to the centre stage whenever there is a debate on corruption and black money. It is time that parties and politicians respected the feelings of people; the popular anger, and discarded their holier than thou stance, to work for transparency in electoral funding and to end the dependence of political parties on corruption and black money,” the PM had said. Modi said that political parties had in the past voluntarily accepted curbs and restrictions on themselves, and they should now take up reforms as a priority. While the Prime Minister would follow through on his call by seeking a consensus, the government was likely to press ahead on the issue of financial reforms in campaigning even if cooperation was not forthcoming. In his speech, the PM focused on conducting the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously. However, the ambit of the proposed reforms would stretch beyond the clubbing of elections to include the exemption from the requirement to disclose the identity of those making contributions (to political parties) of below Rs 20,000. The exemption is seen as a loophole that has been exploited by political parties to get around the disclosure norm. It is presumed that while the exemption is unlikely to be abolished, the threshold might be brought down. The government is also likely to embrace the suggestion of the Election Commission to restrict the exemption to parties that garner a certain percentage of votes. On the simultaneous holding of polls, the Prime Minister said it was time that political parties seriously debated the idea, supported by President Pranab Mukherjee and others, to break the “endless cycle of elections”, and address the economic problems and administrative difficulties.

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