Time not ripe yet for state funding of polls: CEC Zaidi

SansadTV Bureau

FILE: Chief Election Commission Nasim Zaidi. Photo – PTI

The Central Polls panel is of view that the time is not ripe to go for the state funding of elections in the country. The Election Commission of India also thinks that unless “radical reforms” like de-criminalisation of politics and enactment of strong financial transparency laws for candidates and political parties are put into motion, state funding of polls may not be possible.

“Many political parties have demanded state funding. We do not have direct funding of parties. There are certain indirect benefits like free electoral rolls, free air-time on state-owned media, free space for registered offices in state capital and tax exemptions (for parties),” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi said while inaugurating a global conference on the influence of money in politics in New Delhi.

“EC is of the view that state funding should not be considered unless some radical reforms are accompanied in areas such as de-criminalisation of politics in a democracy in parties, holistic electoral finance reforms, robust transparency and audit and strict legal regime for enforcement of anti-corruption laws,” Mr. Zaidi added.

If it (reforms) is not done, the Chief Election Commissioner said, the “state funding will become one more additional tool, one more additional source of funds without reduction of use of illegal money in election campaign,” which may restrict the participation of right thinking citizens in the elections.

State funding of polls imply the government providing funds to parties and candidates to fight elections which will replace the existing system of private or party funds.

CEC Zaidi also called upon the political parties and the government to promptly act on reforms pending in the clean financial electoral policy domain.

“This is high time that reforms proposal on electoral finance moved by the EC and the Law Commission are processed for holistic legislative sanction…. We urge all political parties to take lead to lay down regulatory regime for themselves,” he said.

“This will set good example before people and strengthen democracy. This is a challenge that EC alone cannot handle without involvement of political parties and all stakeholders,” Nasim Zaidi said addressing the event in the capital.

(With inputs from the PTI)