Cong rejects EC proposals on transparency in poll funding

Cong rejects EC proposals on transparency in poll funding

Rejecting Election Commission's suggestions on transparency and accountability in poll funding, the Congress party has expressed its inability to issue receipts to all persons or companies making donations to it for elections as it "neither practical nor possible".

In a communication to the EC, the ruling party said it is also "difficult" to implement suggestions that all expenses or donations above Rs 20,000 be made through crossed cheques or bank transfer.

The ruling party has rejected all ten suggestions made by the poll body on issue of guidelines for transparency in party funding.

The party, in its response, has said that "only if a consensus emerges" the EC may suggest to the Central government to make appropriate amendments in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and to frame rules to make the process of accounting of poll expenses more transparent.

To a suggestion to keep the party funds so collected in a bank account within a reasonable time frame, the Congress party has said that it should be left to the parties to decide whether to deposit funds in banks or keep it in the party office.

"It should be left to the party to decide whether they want to deposit it in a bank or to keep it in its office premises or use it for party purposes directly," Congress Party treasurer Motilal Vora said in the letter.

To another suggestion, he said, "The manner and method of disbursing party funds for meeting election campaign expenses is again outside the statutory provisions of the RPA, 1951. From a practical standpoint, it may not be possible that all election campaign expenses are disbursed only by crossed account payee cheques or draft or RTGS or NEFT or internet transfer."

While a majority of parties including BJP are yet to respond to the EC suggestions for framing of guidelines to bring transparency in poll funding, only 11 have submitted their views.

The EC had sought the views of all the 60 recognised national and state parties but only 11 of them have responded.

The poll body had to extend its deadline from September 30 to October 15 to elicit their views on the measure aimed at curbing use of black money ahead of assembly polls in states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram.

The parties which have submitted their suggestions besides Congress are Trinamool Congress, AIADMK, Indian Union Muslim League, Zoram Nationalist Party of Mizoram, Sikkim Democratic Front, CPI and Shiromani Akali Dal, besides All-India N R Congress, Puducherry.

The EC has proposed a ten-point plan to curb money power in polls, that includes a proposal to include issue of receipt /acknowledgement to persons or companies for every amount of contribution or donation made to the party.

The proposed guidelines also include depositing all contributions/donations in a bank account within a reasonable time frame.

The proposed guidelines also make it mandatory for the 'treasurer' of the party to maintain all finances and accounts and ensure that accounting norms of the parties should comply with the standards issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).

The poll watchdog, which has created an election expenditure monitoring cell and deployed tax sleuths to monitor cash flows during polls, has stressed that all payments made to candidates for poll-related expenses be done through recognised banking channels as mandated by RBI.

The EC said, "During election process, political parties may ensure that any party candidate, party functionary or party worker does not carry party funds in cash exceeding a specified amount.

"The Commission feels it is desirable for political parties to observe transparency and accountability in respect of funds raised and expenditure incurred both during elections and in other times.

"Further, in the interest of conduct of free and fair elections, it is necessary and expedient to provide guidelines for bringing transparency and accountability with regard to funds of political parties," EC said in its letter.

At the AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary skirted the question on whether the party has favoured status-quo to be maintained in the matter of revealing names of people who have made donations to the political parties.

"I think we all need to look at what the issue is and what the provisions are and then we will have to make a clear cut policy on this and then talk about it. Randomly someone will come up with something and we will come up with something else, that is not the way to come about it.

"We will take the opinion of other allies, parties, colleagues and opposition also and then come back because there was a different system which we had applied all along and suddenly to make a radical change we need to be able to address the issue. I think that will be appreciated," she said.

To another question as to how does Congress look at the proposal of the Election Commission about convening all party meeting on the question of opinion polls, she said that her party was watching other parties' reaction to it.

"We don't think appropriate to place our views first on such matters because we run the government. We gather views of all the parties and arrive at our decision. This is a matter of approach. We have to take everyone's opinion before we give our opinion," she said.

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