Reasons Why Centre’s Stand On AAP Funding Is Drama

Congress party claims to be the guardian of laws in all this while probing the funding of Aam Aadmi Party when it is neck deep in illegal practices. Also, why isn’t it pulling away the support from AAP?

The central government told the Delhi High Court today that the Aam Aadmi Party was yet to provide the on the overseas funding received by the party. The central government was probing AAP funding since last November when the High Court had directed it to look “afresh” into the party’s foreign funding after a PIL was filed by advocate ML Sharma last year.

“We have asked for certain details from them regarding bank accounts and other information vide our letter dated November 4, 2013. We had also sent another letter to them. But there is no answer,” Additional Solicitor General Rajeev Mehra, appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs is reported to have told the court.

Following this, the bench headed by justice Pradeep Nandrajog has asked petitioner Sharma to also implead AAP as one of the respondents in the PIL filed by him seeking lodging of a criminal case against founding members of the party, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, for allegedly receiving foreign funds in violation of law.

“AAP is a registered political party. Why you have not made them a party? File an amended memo of parties by next date of hearing i.e. February 5,” the bench said.

Besides Kejriwal, the petitioner has made AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan as party in his PIL.

While it is indeed a welcome step that funding of political parties is assuming greater importance in the national discourse on political reforms. That the judiciary is providing a supervisory oversight to the scrutiny of foreign funding of a political party – the AAP in this case – lends further credibility to the entire exercise, and adds a layer of assurance to the common man.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was very prompt in advising and taking up the case of AAP’s foreign funding from the Court and defending this move of his government saying that the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) provided for it. And rightly so, the funding to a party should be transparent and in the public eye so as the plug the corruption loopholes.

However, this exercise should not remain confined to the AAP. It is needless to say that the quantum of funds generated by AAP would be peanuts when compared to mainstream national political parties. That the funds of other parties – especially all six national parties – must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny is a very basic demand the common voter has.

As demanded by Kejriwal, pointing to a study by the Association for Democratic Reforms which showed that 75 per cent of the funding of political parties like the BJP, the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party came from unknown sources, Shinde should have ordereda probe into funding of other parties as well, including Congress party.

Although the accounts of these parties are audited, yet more than 80% of these funds are reported to be below the denomination of INR 20,000. And that makes the entire exercise farcical. The common voter finds it really hard to digest that such a vast majority of funding of our parties comes from small sources and in small denominations.

Back-door corporate funding of parties is a common knowledge – and the clandestine nature of such funding definitely works to erode the trust that the voter ought to have in the parties competing to represent him.

Secondly, a proper scrutiny of all funding – and not only those received from abroad – is one of the preconditions to electoral cleansing. While more attention must definitely be directed towards funds that originate abroad, transparency in funds generated domestically must also be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny, if not more.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this entire exercise must originate in the legislature, and not be directed by the judiciary. In the recent weeks, the Supreme Court has been seen as a champion of political reforms, while the political parties have only been seen as trying to scuttle its efforts. The very foundation of political parties is their claim to represent the people.

But the central government has done none of the above.

While there is no doubt that AAP should have furnished the proof of its funding to the centre, there is also no doubt about the fact that the issue of funding has become and ego battle for Congress. Its constant march towards AAP funding is driven by the idea of getting a weapon to demolish its base in coming times and gain a vantage point.

Even when Congress cannot find any irregularity itself, it will play the ‘not furnished’ or ‘failed to furnish’ line out loud for gaining attention. It may prove just enough to create an another battle strategy against AAP and its agendas extending the bad-press period for the party.

The credibility downturn that AAP will get from all this will certainly favour Congress. With people finding AAP more and more alike other parties, the mood swing will create a favourable ground for its general election loss. With anti-corruption agenda already blown, AAP and Kejriwal will suffer politically death.

Congress is neither in a position to withdraw support from AAP nor will it extend the real support to the party. It will keep rejoicing its moments of fall because it has already nothing to lose being in the ire of the public and media. It is a mere drama that it will keep playing to disrupt AAP’s national discourse.

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