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Venkaiah Naidu moots laws to curb huge election spends

Hyderabad | Updated on January 09, 2020 Published on January 09, 2020

M Venkaiah Naidu, Vice-President   -  Nagara Gopal@thehindu

Money power eroding credibility of country’s democratic polity, says Vice-President

“A millionaire has a better chance of becoming an MP or an MLA at the cost of the honest and more deserving low income Indians,” said Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday.

 

Expressing concern over rising money power eroding the credibility of the country’s democratic polity, Naidu called for effective laws in quick time and simultaneous polls to check the menace. He was speaking at a conference, on ‘Money Power in Politics’, organised here by the Foundation for Democratic Reforms, Bharat Institute of Public Policy and the University of Hyderabad.

He spoke at length on the causes and consequences of the unbridled use of money by governments and political parties to lure voters.

“Two glaring distortions (in democratic polity) need to be addressed by the political system with a sense of urgency and unity,” said the Vice-President. “The first is the use of enormous money power — often unaccounted for and illegal — in politics and elections. The second is the increasing attempts to entice voters with short-term benefits at the cost of the long-term goals of ensuring basic amenities, infrastructure, quality education and healthcare and growth and job opportunities.”

He observed that the short-term benefits offered by governments in the form of populist schemes for electoral advantage come at the cost of their governance, besides adversely impacting the long-term interests of the poor and the middle class. He urged economists, social scientists, the media and civil society to evolve mechanisms to find a reasonable balance between the objectives of short-term income-boosting and long-term development and poverty eradication.

“Perhaps, the time has come to consider a suitable legislation on the lines of FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act that puts a cap on fiscal deficit). If a cap is introduced on the proportion of budgetary resources that can be deployed for short term benefits by law, then perhaps all political parties will have a level playing field and reckless and unsustainable populist measures can be kept under check.”

Referring to the proposals of state funding of elections and simultaneous polls in the public domain as part of electoral reforms, and the experience of too frequent elections since 1967, Naidu said: “The time has come for the idea of simultaneous polls to be seriously considered for its many advantages including reducing the costs of holding polls and spending by political parties.” He urged the political parties to consider this proposal and evolve a consensus.

On the issue of simultaneous polls, he said: “There are certain apprehensions in some political parties that simultaneous polls may benefit some parties with a larger support base and charismatic leadership to the detriment of others. This apprehension does not seem to be well founded as the Indian voter has demonstrated his maturity in voting.”

General Secretary of the Foundation for Democratic Reforms, Jayaprakash Narayan, introduced the topic.

Published on January 09, 2020
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