Accreditation for political parties
India is a fast-growing economy with a regressive democracy as money consistently defines the lines of party politics
The current scenario of political parties criticising and accusing each other on the corrupt practices adopted by them, when they were in power either in central or state governments, has made party politics unhealthy in India. It would damage the core values of democracy and further denigrate the political system. This trend is not unique to India and it becomes the story of most countries in the world which have been liberated from the colonial yoke and practise democracy at different levels. These corrupt practices have been intensified in the era of globalisation as the volume of economic transactions has increased drastically.
In India, it has gone up to the neck, eating away the vital and core values of the Indian society. India had its own evolved democratic values practised even before it adopted the western representative democracy. Now India is just a fast growing economy with a regressive democracy. India has a surplus economy in terms of volume but witnesses moral turpitude when it comes to democracy. There are certain ills that afflicted the Indian society and the same have impacted the political setup as well. In fact, politics has to reform and transform the society through its function. But in India, the social forces are much more powerful than the political institutions and hence the latter gets influenced by the former. Yet a fight against corruption is also on the rise. Crediting the age of technological advancement, corrupt practices by political parties can be identified to some extent.
At the dawn of independence, politics meant to serve. But today it has been made into a business venture, adopting all market strategies, negating ideologies, and obscuring the truth. As a result, politics and profit seem inseparable. The political scenario has become dependent on money. Earning money for party activities is the need of the hour. Consequently, political parties create trusts to deposit the money earned through various means. The trust becomes a corpus and also a source of income for the parties. Families of certain party leaders have started dominating the party through which they can utilise the corpus for their own purposes. Even prominent individuals in parties have created such a trust and started service institutions, specifically educational institutions from schools to universities. These institutions become a source of amassing wealth. Knowing this trend, the contractors moved into the political parties and affiliated themselves in parties to influence the government to increase the volume of their transactions resulting in increased profit. In turn, the political parties get the required amount from those contractors when they need it for their political activities. Not just during the time of election but also for mobilising crowds during the party meetings and conferences. It is a money-spinning activity, comprehensively. This sort of practice is only possible among parties which could come to or are in power. Corruption becomes a pervasive act involving every segment of the society, including spiritual groups which became as popular as corporate giants, establishing a connection with the political class.
As long as political parties depend on the huge amount of money for political recruitment and party activities, they cannot be free from corruption. No political party can claim that they rely entirely on the public for their funding. The only exceptions are the Left parties, which are not in power. Majority of parties refrained from approaching the public for fundraising. Huge funding comes only from the market. The quantum of money given by the corporates varies from party to party depending on the possibility of the party becoming a ruling party or part of the ruling coalition. It clearly signifies the strong linkages between parties and the market forces. Political parties which came to power at the centre and the states have developed a corporate approach by institutionalising all the activities. As a result, parties require huge money for running its day to day activities. Smaller parties cannot compete with the giants, eventually getting tired of it due to the monetary divide. Smaller parties aligned with giant parties share the spoils.
Thus, politics becomes a money making process with huge risks. It is a deep and serious malaise afflicting the party system, not just in India but throughout the world. Tackling this issue should be the discussion of the hour. There are two options. First is the political parties voluntarily taking steps to evolve a framework and regulate their activities as civil societies have. Second being that political parties must be accredited by an independent agency on the degree of rectitude and adherence to the democratic values. The accrediting agency has to evolve a framework for the assessment of the political parties through their activities. By doing so changes can be introduced in party politics. Beyond that, there is no meaning in criticising each other on corruption in public. A fresh discourse is needed for cleansing party politics in India.
(The author is Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. The views are strictly personal)