Centre accepts report on state funding of poll
New Delhi, December 23
The Union Cabinet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the chair met here late last night. It has also accepted the recommendation of the Indrajit Gupta Committee to create a separate election fund and providing certain facilities initially like petrol or diesel for vehicles during the campaign, loudspeakers and a telephone with specified number of free calls to candidates of recognised political parties.
The Election Commission has been urged to convene a meeting of the leaders of political parties to seek their candid opinion on the state funding of elections for reducing the politico-criminal nexus, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi told mediapersons in the forenoon.
That a decision on the matter was on the anvil and appears to have been hastened by the two sting operations showing Members of Parliament being involved in the cash for questions scam and taking alleged kickbacks for clearing projects under the MPLAD scheme.
Mr Dasmunshi said the Election Commission during its discussions with the political leaders would ascertain whether the steps suggested by the committee were enough or more required to be done to kickstart the state funding of elections.
On the specific recommendation of the committee that state funding initially be undertaken in kind and not in the form of cash, the minister said the commission would discuss this specific aspect with political parties and find out if these concessions were sufficient or not and if anything more required to be done.
Mr Dasmunshi said the decision of the Cabinet would be conveyed to the commission by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
The committee, which was constituted in 1998 to consider the Central issue of the state funding of elections stressed that this was “fully justified constitutionally and legally”. It emphasised that such funding should be confined to parties recognised as national or state parties by the commission.
The committee has underlined the need for creating a separate election fund to meet the expenses for conducting elections. It had underlined seven years ago that to begin with the Centre may contribute Rs 600 crore annually at the rate of Rs 10 per elector and a like amount be pooled in by the state governments.
The committee was categoric that political parties must submit their annual accounts regularly to the income tax authorities showing details of receipts and expenditure. Further, it was of the opinion that no state funding for elections should be provided to any party or its candidates if annual returns for the previous assessment year have not been filed under the Income Tax Act.
The committee also said initially only a part of the financial burden of political parties be shifted to the state. A greater burden could be progressively vested on the states so that ultimately all their legitimate expenses become a charge on the state. Political parties should also file a complete statement of accounts of their election expenditure, both on general party propaganda and on individual candidates.