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Political parties or ‘whitening’ centers!

Political parties or ‘whitening’ centers!

The people should not fail to notice the ‘retreat’ of the Central government from its ‘much-hyped war’ against corruption and black money as the Modi-government recently announced that the political parties do not need to reveal the source of their income while a layman is asked to submit proper data of the source of his hard-earned money.

A political party can accept donations upto Rs 20,000 from any number of persons; they needn’t reveal any details about the donors. That shows that our political parties can keep functioning as ‘laundry centers’ that help whiten crores of black money if it is given in Rs 20,000 denomination. What kind of ‘financial cleansing’ could the Central government carry out if it doesn’t ‘touch’ the biggest source of black money? N N Vohra committee that investigated the nexus between criminals and political parties had, in its report, mentioned the lack of transparency in the monetary donations received by the political parties.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the government’s plan was to control the corrupt and the culprits through demonetization. The very Finance Minister is now trying to justify the decision of leaving the political parties ‘untouched’ in its mission. As per the Income Tax rules, he said, all parties would need to audit the revenue and submit the details. But the truth Jaitely did not mention is that the parties do not need to reveal the details of donations upto Rs 20,000 in any of these auditing. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was targeting benami holders to bring out black money, did not say that the largest benami transactions are the donations received by the political parties.

An outfit called “Association for Democratic Reforms” had, in last June, released the details of the donations of political parties in the year 2014-15. They indicated that the donations beyond the amount of Rs 20,000 were just 49 percent. That means that more than half of the donations received by political parties are from sources that are not required to reveal its identity. The fact is that the total money whitened in this manner is in crores. In 2014-15, the total donation of around Rs 648.88 crore was in the category that did not require revelation of the source. Around half of the total donation collected by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in that period coming up to Rs 434.67 crore, was in that category. While the Congress received 32 percent of its donations from such donors, the BSP stood tall as almost 100 percent of its money came from similar ‘anonymous donors’. The data showed the only party that received donations in an amount bigger than RS 20,000 was the NCP. Even the CPI and the CPI-M were no exception. It doesn’t mean that only these six political parties are ready to function as laundry centres. There are all together 1866 political parties registered in the country with many of them in just paper, not indulging in any activities.

It was former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy who said that most of those outfits were registered with a motto of whitening the black money. The Election Commission has now suggested that the limit of the amount that can be received by not disclosing the source should be made Rs 2000. Will those who are ‘experts’ in whitening crores of black money in portions of 20, 000 have trouble in making it in even smaller bits of 2000? Won’t the ‘problem’ be solved if a few more donation coupons are printed?

The step the government should take if it really wants to eradicate financial irregularities, corruption and black money is to include political parties too in the transparency-radar. The present scenario is that the political parties that control the government stand above all the regulations and restrictions, which are strictly imposed on the citizens. There is no limit for the political donations, the largest source of corruption. They neither are required to follow any regulations nor do they pay income tax. While the authority asks for Aadhar card, pan card and other details for the deposition of laymen’s money, the politicians can get away by submitting bogus data of black money of crores of rupees. While it is obvious that black money cannot be eradicated without bringing transparency in the funds received by political parties, the citizens should notice that nobody, including the Prime Minister , is doing anything in that regard. The BJP that holds majority in the Lok Sabha can give no excuses to not make any such legislation.

The parties and other organizations that wish for a politics of truth in the country should put in their efforts in that direction. Those who comb the pockets of common man for black money should first open their sacks.

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