Political Funding is the Issue, not Peanuts
It is ridiculous to obsess over the claimed expenditure of a candidate in a particular constituency and escalate a deemed breach of the stipulated expenditure limit into a poll conduct violation leading to possible disqualification. At a key, but instrumental level, the barring from elections of a candidate on contentious grounds is a vitiation of the electoral process. How correct is it to remove a candidate and pervert the people’s verdict — letting another candidate gain, or win by default? The bigger issue is the misapplication of norms on political funding, with a mere technicality obscuring the larger task of wholesale reform of political funding. The idea is not to defend throwing money around during elections. But the truth is that, given the blatantly underhand methods by which political parties collect and distribute funds, the stated sums put out by them are almost always a fraction of what is actually garnered and spent. Politics needs money, and lots of it — even the Aam Aadmi Party, though laudable in the transparent manner it went about that task, felt the pinch when faced with the deep pockets of established players. Indian democracy is funded by opaque means, with parties showing an income that is a tiny percentage of the actual sums. This money, in turn, is gathered via patronage and extortion, corrupting the civil service and administration in the process. To root out this major cause of endemic corruption, funding and expenditure of parties should be transparent, they should be required to declare this, and the declaration should be open to challenge by other parties and various watchdog bodies, including the media and the EC. This, of course, needs political will. Summoning that is the big task, not going after peanuts a particular candidate may have scattered.