Monday , 23 September 2019
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Secret Accounts Of Political Parties

ALONG with society, political parties too should be cleansed of black money. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while pleading for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, said that would be one way to curb “black money ka karobar”, which takes place on a large scale when elections are held in different times. Modi’s observation is an admission on behalf of the political class that elections are fought with black money. A recent report regarding Goa released by the Association of Democratic Reform (ADR) points out political parties received funds from individual donors whose identities were not fully revealed. Several donors did not give their PAN numbers. Many of those who gave donations to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party were a group of individuals who donated the same amount of Rs 40,000 consistently in the same bank and on same dates without giving their addresses or PAN. The laws of the land allow political parties to receive funds from different quarters and they enjoy income tax exemptions. However, they have to file I-T returns as a mandatory exercise, but their income reporting is far from transparent despite the fact that they enjoy exemptions and concessions. The political parties have resisted all attempts to bring them under the purview of the Right to Information Act, which makes their functioning in a democratic society secretive. It is necessary that political parties are subject to public scrutiny.
The report reveals that donations to political parties have been growing appreciably year by year, indicating that money power plays a key role in the state politics. Although most of the donations reported in income tax returns by the major political parties are shown as having been received by cheque from various companies, such records do not suffice to remove the suspicions in the minds of the common people that not all the money received by political parties are shown in the record books. It is a common knowledge that politicians use money to woo voters, offering them free holidays, consumer items, booze and even vehicles.
With the upper limits for election expenses during the campaign set by the Election Commission of India being far below the actual spending made by the contesting candidates, it is necessary that they be revised to a more realistic level in order to give room to the claim of the political parties that the costs of various things have risen and so the limit should also be raised. The government should also explore the idea of state funding for the parties and work out a common and simple formula for calculating how much a party should get. It could be based on their performance in the last elections or an average of the past three elections in order to provide a level playing field for all parties. This could also weed out from the system hundreds of political parties that exist only in name and have not been able to win a single seat or sufficient vote percentage. Many of them crop up during elections in order to help their promoters bargain for some money from parties and candidates whose votes they might damage. Some of these political parties could be conduits for black money for the founders and promoters of these parties as also for elements in major political parties. Such parties must be de-recognized.
While political parties enjoy exemptions from payment of income tax for the funds collected by them, the donors (business houses and individuals) can claim tax deduction under the Income Tax Act, provided they submit their PAN number. But these are for money paid by cheques. There is every possibility that cash donations escape the records of political parties. And donations may not be demanded by politicians only in cash but in a variety of forms, shapes and sizes. It would not help if it is left entirely to the political parties to report donations received by them. Although politicians love to advertise themselves as social workers only interested in doing social service, the reality is that politics is seen by them as a profession that gives great glamour, high status and good money. The best part of the good money is no questions asked. The power that brings them money and keeps the taxmen and policemen away from their doors is the intoxicant that draws men and women into politics today. Take the example of MGP. Forget the donations the party might not have revealed to the I-T authorities. Several individuals with incomplete identity and no PAN deposit the same amount of Rs 40,000 in MGP accounts in the same bank, but the income tax department asks the Dhavlikars no questions!

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