If money is not confiscated, no gain in knowing who funded whom how much

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Supreme Court of India has helped us know which company/corporate has paid to which political party how much in the shape of Electoral Bond. Till it forced the State Bank of India to divulge the details of the EB, the funding was clandestine. If the clandestinely cultivated money is not confiscated, what is the gain in knowing who funded whom how much?   

An important issue before the Supreme Court was: 

“Whether unlimited corporate funding to political parties infringes on the principle of free and fair elections and equality.” 

And, the answer was:

“Unlimited contribution by companies to political parties is antithetical to free and fair elections, because it allows certain persons/companies to wield their clout and resources to influence policy making.”

Long ago, on 14 July 1963, Orissa’s first Chief Minister and the great Gandhian with marked urge for socialism, Nabakrushna Chowdhury, while inaugurating Gandhi Tattwa Prachar Kendra at Balasore, had expressed deep anguish over derailment of the democratic system due to nexus between the raisers of party fund and the wealthy men of commerce and industry that contribute the funds required to defray electoral expenses and influence policy making and administrative decisions to their own advantage. According to him, the fund raisers – he had named Prime Minister Nehru’s inner-circle man Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and West Bengal’s  Bidhan Chandra Roy, Bombay’s Morarjee Desai etc. – pave the path for the rich men in shaping up economic-administrative policies in such manners that they get well compensated by acquiring big mines and natural resources, making huge and unhindered profits on the strength of supports the Government run by the party gives. 

He recalled how he had called upon the top leadership to free the country from this nexus.

“Huge amounts are raised at the time of elections from big mine-owners and other rich businessmen for which no detailed accounts are kept. Those persons who raise such contributions on behalf of the party, distribute amounts to different candidates and keep a portion of the funds raised for their own institutions or their own factions and also appropriate a portion for their own selves”, he had informed the public. 

No leader of national repute had till then divulged this syndrome. In recalling how in 1955 in the A.I.C.C. session at Berhanpur, his suggestion to stop the practice of collection of funds from mines and industry owners and other business tycoons was poohpoohed by leaders, Chowdhury had stressed upon freeing the electoral system from the grip of big businessmen, as otherwise, they shall ruin the very purpose of the Republic by influencing the electoral system by their money. 

After so many decades, Chowdhury’s words are echoed in what the Supreme Court of India has said in the EB case. Large donors get a “seat at the table” and influence the policy, it has observed. 

Noting that, “Economic inequality leads to differing levels of political engagement because of the deep association between money and politics”, the Apex Court has said, unless the association between money and politics is stopped, the value of “one person, one vote” would have no meaning. 

We cannot but remember that, in responding to criticism over lack of any guarantee to save the people from the ill effect of economic inequality, in the third reading of the Constitution, Dr.Ambedkar had told the Constituent Assembly that, overwhelming presence of the wealthy and elite class in the Assembly had, no doubt, given birth to this result . But, despite that, the Assembly had given, he said, equal political status to every Citizen of the Country with the best of democratic value in shape of one person one vote, which will ensure that the first Lok Sabha shall be formed with true representatives of the people on the basis of vote of equal value. The very same Lok Sabha shall be in the position of eradicating the inequality the Constituent Assembly was circumstantially unable to do away with.  

“On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradiction. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic rights we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote, one value. In our social and economic rights we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny one man one value”, he had confessed.

“We must remove the contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up”, he has warned (CAD, Vol.XI,p.979).

The First Lok Sabha was not in a position to “remove the contradiction”, as shrewd politicians, as observed by Nabakrushna Chowdhury quoted supra, had already succumbed to the trap of the rich and by giving election- funds to the party in power, the avaricious businessmen were in a position to shape the policy of governance that suited them, making a fun of one person, one vote.

The Supreme Court in its judgment has tried to uphold the democratic value of one person, one vote on which alone the democratic sovereignty of India stands. It has shown how Electoral Bonds violate the value of one person, one vote, because of “deep association between money and politics.”

The scheme of EB has been declared unconstitutional. It is the best thing to happen in India, to tell the least. We have now come to know which company/corporation has contributed how much money to which party and we have also come to know the irregularities involved therein.   

But, in order to ensure that the economic inequality amongst the political parties generated by corporate funding, which “leads to differing levels of political engagements” making “one person, one vote, one value” unavailable to India, the money the political parties have obtained through the Bonds, needs be forthwith confiscated. 

If this illegally cultivated money is not confiscated, to us, there is no gain in knowing who funded whom how much. 

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