Campaign Finance Reforms in India: Issues and Challenges

The Observer Research Foundation organised a roundtable on "Campaign Finance Reforms in India: Issues and Challenges" on February 1, 2012. The panelists included Mr. Manish Tewari (MP, Indian National Congress), Mr. Rajiv Pratap Rudy (MP, Bharatiya Janata Party), Professor E. Sridharan (Academic Director, Centre for Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania.) and Mr. S.K. Mendiratta (Consultant-cum-Legal Advisor to the Election Commission of India). This publication highlights the key observations made by the panelists and others on how to address the "pernicious and all-pervasive" influence of money in Elections and resolve related issues, like inner party democracy.

India today stands as a model for emerging democracies across the world. Having held periodic elections since 1951, with the exception of the two-year Emergency period, the efficacy of the electoral structures both at the national and State-levels has to a great extent defined India’s success as a modern democratic nation-State. Unfortunately, over the past two decades, the essence of democracy has been corroded by corruption in the electoral financing structure. However, corruption is not the sole reason. The other main reasons are criminalisation of politics and lack of genuine inner-party democracy. To reform the process, the “pernicious and all-pervasive” influence of illegal
sources of money on the prevalent political culture must be addressed.
To highlight some of the key concerns with regard to campaign finance reforms, the Observer Research Foundation organised a round-table titled “Campaign Finance Reforms in India: Issues and Challenges” on February 1, 2012. This was the beginning of what will eventually be a series of conferences to address the issue of campaign-funding as well as reforms in political parties. Flagged off as an introduction to understanding the basic issues that face political parties and the Election Commission with respect to sources of funding, the roundtable comprised Mr. Manish Tewari (Member of Parliament, Indian National Congress), Mr. Rajiv Pratap Rudy (Member of Parliament, Bharatiya Janata Party), Professor E. Sridharan (Academic Director, Centre for Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania.), Mr. T. K. Arun (Editor, Opinion, Economic Times), Mr. S. K. Mendiratta (Consultant-cum-Legal Advisor to the Election Commission of India) and Mr. Anil Bairwal (National Coordinator, Association for Democratic Reforms, New Delhi). Some of the key observations which emerged at the conference were:
(i) Rising Campaign Expenditure;
(ii) State Funding Counterproductive?;
(iii) Lack of Political Will;
(iv) Lack of Political Will;
(v) Party Reforms;
(vi) Ineffective Legislation;
(vii) Separation of Executive and Legislature;
(viii) Lessons from other models;
(ix) Accountability and Transparency of Corporate Funding;
(x) Need for Systemic Reforms

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