Let not the paradigm shift in the way elections are fought and funded in the world’s largest democracy drown in the din of the assembly election results. Devastation of one party, emergence of another, and the power debut by one more may recede into the horizon, if the Delhi show is viewed against the backdrop of the tectonic shift in the underbelly.
First and foremost, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have achieved what various governments couldn’t– winning an election sans corporate funding.
Two, in a country where caste politics play a large role, the party managed to unite the people on ‘anti-corruption’ rhetoric. An eclectic Kejriwal, addressing a group of supporters after the results, said, “We had estimated a requirement of Rs20 crore. The moment we reached that level, we stopped taking contributions from people.” This essentially is putting the rhetoric of ‘participative democracy’ – something the party has been harping upon – to practice and establish an alternative funding model for political parties, whose credit columns currently could be trailed back to an equivalent debit in the account of some or the other corporate houses.
In doing so, he has gone back to the era when parties would raise funds using the drum beat from the public. This kind of fund raising – prevalent in the post-independence era – simply lost significance in the 1960s as corporate money started making its way into party coffers.
In 1962, the Santhanam committee recommended a complete ban on corporate donations to political parties. The recommendations were put in cold storage before a complete ban was imposed in 1969. In 1978, an expert committee to review the Companies Act also supported the move. Things took a U-turn as a Section in the Act was again amended in 1985 and the board of directors were allowed to make such donations.
The situation now is that ‘unknown sources’ figure top in the list of funds raised by the major parties between 2004 and 2012. A good chunk of funds received by national parties are from sources they are not obliged to reveal as it falls under the Rs 20,000 slab, according to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch in September this year.
Irrespective of their caste background, the party has managed to unite people on the anti-corruption and good governance plank. Though a strong debut is not a new phenomenon in India, the issue stoked by debutants were local in nature and pertained to a closed group. The Telugu Desam Party is a case in point.