While the ruling passed on Monday by the Central Information Commission directing the political parties to come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act has been hailed by large sections of the civil society and the media, the political fraternity of the country seems mightily displeased about the prospects entailed by the new compulsion. Prominently amongst the disgruntled parties, the Congress has been frank and direct about rejecting the suggestion, saying that the order is likely to ‘damage’ the democratic fabric of the institutions! It is obviously not unexpected that the Congress, despite being the main partner in the ramshackle coalition that is the United Progressive Alliance, and in spite of being in the eye of the series of storms pertaining to the slew of corruptions scandals, has made its oppositional stance clear to the public. However, it is extremely unfortunate that the oldest political party has given the absolutely baseless reason to reject the order, a watershed in the crusade to usher in transparency and accountability in the political affairs, that it would create ruptures in the political system, and would be used to harness undue information against rival political factions. Deplorably enough, even the Communist Part of India (Marxist) has joined the bandwagon of the Congress and has voiced a unanimous disapproval of the judgement of the CIC, saying that it would cause disagreements within the party, the management of which would become more difficult if the public gets access to sensitive information. Similarly, BJP’s suggestion that the matter be referred to the Election Commission is equally flawed since the CIC’s order has nothing to do with parties winning the elections, but their crucial role as political organisations representing certain people, agendas, ideologies and visions for the functioning of the democracy.
Political parties cannot remain barricaded behind impunities because they have a direct bearing upon the way parliamentary democracy functions in this country. And having control over information regarding the public policies, manifestos, criminal and educational history of election candidates and others holding posts within the parties, criteria of selection of the candidates as well as adequate representation of all sections of people to ensure inner-party democracy, financial sources of the parties, along with details of voluntary donations, among others, is indispensable for a discerning citizenry so as to be able to choose and elect candidates wisely. Since political parties have an immediate effect on the functioning of the democracy, and since many of them receive substantial government aid, in terms of monetary donations, subsidies in land and other amenities, income tax exemptions, it is obvious that their coming under the purview of the RTI is completely justified. This would prove to be a great tool in the hands of the people whom the parties claim to represent in the first place. Sadly, stonewalling such a great populist reform would only mean that parties have much to hide, that being under the ambit of RTI would bring out in the open.