Danger of corporate funding

Danger of corporate funding

Lok Sabha Elections are due is another four to five months. But instead of parties putting forth the ideological issues concerning human rights and right to equitable development, the only test being applied is the marketability of the party, even though it may flout the ideal laid down in our Constitution or the vision of the freedom struggle for which millions died.

Though Lokpal Bill has been passed - obviously under the shadow of forthcoming elections – both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party made adjustments they previously proclaimed unbridgeable. But the other two bills, Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill and Public Grievances Bill, which have been pending for so long and which would have given great relief against the small bureaucrats’ irregularities were not even given the courtesy of being discussed, much less being passed.

The exemption of political parties from the Right to Information Act was passed unanimously to a thundering applause but very significantly, the question of donation to political parties by the corporate sector is being studiously kept under cover.

The high-powered committee to revise the Companies Act,  constituted by Government of India in 1977, had recommended the continuance of the ban on political donations by the corporate sector. This was because of the warning given by former Chief Justice M C Chagla as far back as in 1958 when he said that “any attempt on the part of business houses to finance a political party is likely to contaminate the very spring of democracy”.

All this, however, fell on deaf ears of politicians and political donations were permitted during the tenure of then prime minister Indira Gandhi and have now been continued under Companies Act, 2013. So much for the campaign against politics being messed up by money power. That is why corporate funding of the new Aam Aadmi Party, which is forming the government in Delhi, is a matter of concern especially when it claims to be different.  The danger of corporate involvement in politics is not lessened by receiving contributions on website or through cheques from corporate sector which in any case finds mention in balance sheets of the companies. It is the source of money power funding political parties that is the real danger to democracy – how it is displayed is a small matter.

India is among the just 10 per cent of countries that allow parties and candidates to receive anonymous donations. Even Nepal and Bhutan fare better. Of the Rs.2,365 crore raised by the Congress between 2004 and 2012, about Rs. 2,000 crore could not be traced to any individual or organisations. Similarly, the BJP attributed Rs. 952 crore out of the total Rs. 1,304 crore raised between 2004 and 2012 to unknown sources.
Real intentions
Hypocrisy in politics to some extent is accepted. But when hypocrisy puts on the role of mentor while concealing its real intentions, it amounts to cheating the electorate. Look at the way BJP and Congress are projecting their approach to the judgment of the Supreme Court reversing the view of Delhi High Court which had held Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional resulting in it being restored on the statute.
Initially, the Congress leadership publicly termed it as an unhappy decision and as interference with individual liberties. Normal course of action would have been to have Sec 377 repealed through Parliament. But then BJP, which had initially broached the idea of placing this matter before an all party meeting, took a sudden reverse turn and has now openly declared its support to the Supreme Court decision. Obviously, BJP feels that in the country at large, especially amongst rural voters and the older generation, deletion of Sec 377 would not find favour. So it has taken cover of Supreme Court to maintain Sec 377. In my view, filing a review petition is a way of misleading the public. Legal experts could tell you that filing a review is impermissible because courts have held that merely because another view could be taken is no ground for review. It is also embarrassing when out of two judges who gave the judgment, the senior judge has retired. Frankly, I do not understand why the government is taking the tortuous route of review when a straightforward easy course of repealing this provision is available. I say this because Supreme Court judgment has given them clear power.
But this is not being done because Congress wants to play both running with the hare and hunting with the hound. The Congress wants to pose as modern liberal party appealing to the younger generation and urban population but at the same time not wanting to risk anger of the rural and older generation. This may be a correct political strategy, but is a devious one which further brings shame to the ambiguous conduct of the politicians.
Though AAP claims to be radically different from other parties, its decision to have the ministry sworn in at Ram Lila ground is of the same old feudal Roman practice of giving people the circus because you can not give them bread. There is nothing radical about it.  This royal coronation ill befits a party purporting to speak for the rickshaw pullers and slum dwellers of Delhi. It would have been far more democratic if the Delhi cabinet after having been sworn in the usual staid manner at Raj Bhawan. The cabinet would have then gone to Ram Lila ground and mix with the crowds as before. That would have given the aam admi a greater sense of belonging than being pushed around by the police while the oath is being given and dignitaries are seated safely.

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