ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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State Funding of Elections

A more critical perspective is required on the matter of state funding of elections, taking into account the wider political economy context and the intricacies of democratic processes in India. The experience of other countries should be examined keeping track of the objectives proclaimed and their possible realisation.

An all-party meet held in May 1998 under the chairmanship of union home minister went into the question of growing role of money power in elections. It deliberated upon the various proposals put forth by the Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms in 1990 and by the Election Commission from time to time. While there was a clear agreement on the need for comprehensive electoral reforms, many felt that state funding could provide an effective answer to this problem. It was, therefore, suggested that a committee be appointed to go into all aspects of the issue of state funding of elections and recommend concrete measures towards that. In pursuance of this, the ministry of law, justice and company affairs constituted the Committee on State Funding of Elections, which submitted its report in 1999.

The committee unanimously expressed that state funding of political parties for election purposes was justified in the interest of democracy, free and fair elections and to curb the vitiating role of money power in elections. This was suggested even as it was admitted that comprehensive electoral reforms were required and state funding could only bring about some cosmetic changes. Taking note of the stringent financial position of the country, however, only partial funding by the state was advocated, and that too only for recognised national and state level parties. The committee suggested that certain facilities could be provided to recognised political parties in kind. These may include rent-free accommodation and rent-free telephone for them. Besides, it is suggested that during the campaign period, they should be provided free time on Doordarshan/AIR. The committee also suggests making a provision of certain benefits for each of their candidates. These include: specified quantity of petrol or diesal for the vehicles used for election campaign, specified quantity of paper for printing his election literature and unofficial identity slips for distribution to voters, postal stamps of a specified amount, five copies of electoral rolls of his constituency, loudspeakers, deposit-free telephone, refreshments and food packets for his counting agents on the day of counting. Restrictions on election expenses have also been favoured to curb the ostentatious show of money power although the committee did not delve on the ways of doing so. It suggested the creation of a separate Election Fund to which the central government should contribute at the rate of Rs 10 per electorate, amounting to Rs 600 crore, and the states should contribute a matching amount.

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