With a view to bringing about transparency in the corporate financing of political parties, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi on Monday called for such funding and donations being made subject to audit and disclosure. Mr. Quraishi was speaking at an interaction with the All India Association of Industries (AIAI) here.

In a presentation titled, ‘Elections and the role of corporate India', Mr. Quraishi said: “We want transparency in the corporate financing of political parties. Payments should be [made] by cheque. There should be auditing of this funding so that we know the nexus [between the party and a corporate]. Audit reports should be put up online. Donations should be disclosed to the Election Commission, the Income Tax department and the public.”

Though Mr. Quraishi spoke against allowing corporates to play “a direct role in the conduct of elections,” he said the initiative of the AIAI to initiate a discussion on electoral reforms was encouraging.

One of the major concerns the CEC highlighted as being an obstacle to free and fair elections was the malpractice of black money. While the election expenditure limit had been increased to Rs.16 lakh for the Vidhan Sabha and Rs.40 lakh for the Lok Sabha, no candidate reported full expenditure, thus making it difficult to justify an increase in the limit.

“The idea is to control black money. The Commission has no way of doing so in 30 days [the period of polling],” he said.

In Tamil Nadu, the problem was “very serious.” “Our campaign showed results. Women complained to us about saris and dhotis [surreptitiously] deposited in their homes,” he said.

In response to a question, he ruled out State funding as a solution to counter the abuse of money in elections.

Paid news

Mr. Quraishi said there was consensus across political parties to curb the prevalence menace of paid news, a menace by which since “they all have been hurt.” In the recently-concluded five-State polls, the Commission had issued 86 notices to candidates with reference to paid news.

The CEC impressed upon the corporate body the need to give a holiday to employees on polling day. “Do you [not] give holidays to your employees? We have closed our eyes to your non-compliance because we don't want to open too many fronts. However, we are becoming tougher. It is required of you to give a legal holiday [on polling day].”

He also called upon the industry sector to involve social messages in their product-marketing strategies, citing examples of some advertisements.

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