S Murlidharan

Reform political parties — not the RTI way

S. Murlidharan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 07, 2013

No point asking parties to declare their official assets.

Political parties should be brought to book on black money. Spare them from RTI scrutiny.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) more than a month ago had held that political parties came under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. The reasoning was that they were public authorities substantially funded by the government.

Since then, political parties have risen as a phalanx to nip the mischief in the bud. How can we bare our strategies to the public, they thunder in self-righteous indignation.

After all, how the obdurate B.S. Yeddyurappa is being brought around and brought back by the BJP is strictly its business. Or, for that matter, with whom Mayawati is about to sew up an alliance for the next general elections has to be a closely guarded secret, so that she is not upstaged. In the event, the political parties by and large are rallying around the ruling UPA government in its initiative to annul the CIC verdict.

ON WEAK WICKET

That none of the political parties involved has gone on appeal to the apex court against the CIC verdict is significant. Instead, they have plumped for the simple but rather dubious expedient of annulment through legislative action.

Equally significant is the lack of challenge to the CIC’s insinuation that the political parties are substantially funded by the government. Everyone knows that political parties in this country are substantially funded by black money received as kickbacks from fawning foreign suppliers of various plant and machinery as well as from Indian industrialists. But it would take enormous courage for political parties to mount a challenge to the rather innocuous view propounded by the CIC; doing that would make them admit that black money is their bread and butter.

Small wonder, political parties of all hues have found it expedient and less embarrassing to take on the CIC on the legislative rather than the judicial front. They would rather deftly sidestep the judiciary than be confronted with disconcerting questions --- handle the crisis arising out of the CIC’s observations inside the Parliament rather than in the judiciary. Be that as it may, the point is — in the melee we have missed the woods for the trees.

BLACK MONEY

The CIC, with all due respects to it, was only seeking to embarrass the political parties. It was playing to the gallery, just as information activists have latched on to its bandwagon to hit at the soft underbelly of the political parties.

It is all very well to say we were concerned only with the official or white money, and not with the black-money in possession of the parties, but that would be turning oneself away from the reality. With all respects, the CIC has ended up scoring a brownie point.

Perhaps, it would have been all right to bring political parties within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, had the system of state funding been in place. But then state funding can follow only after the scourge of black money is removed, which is easier said than done.

The scourge can take at least a decade to be removed, for which effective steps must be taken like reading the riot act to the scamsters and ushering in goods and services tax. If state funding is started even before the black money menace is stamped out, our politicos will take money with two eager hands --- from the government and sundry industrialists and scamsters.

KEEP PUBLIC OUT

Shifting the focus away from black money, it must be pointed out that the public has no business to interfere with the working of political parties, unless they are members of a party. To be sure, political parties can bare their chests to members as a step in strengthening inner party democracy, but that does not mean any outsider with good or evil intent should be allowed to peep into the affairs of a political party.

Advocate and Aam Aadmi Party member Prashant Bhushan is wrong when he says the public has every right to know about candidate selection.

While dynastic succession and caste considerations are certainly deplorable, it is not for the public to get embroiled in inner party matters. It would be dangerous to allow public to question political parties, because busybodies then would have a field day. The government and its agencies should be open to questioning, but not political parties.

(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant.)

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Published on August 07, 2013
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