If citizens want good governance, they have to contribute to parties

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | P P Thimmaya | Bangalore | Updated: Mar 25 2014, 06:19am hrs
Financial contribution to political parties in India, now in the midst of hectic election campaigning, has started to flow from individuals and organisations without any political affiliations and the latest to join the ranks is TV Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education and former board member of Infosys.

Pai will be making financial contributions to the major political parties of the country. Confirming this development, he told FE, If citizens want good and clean governance they have to contribute to political parties, otherwise it is the crooked contractors and crony capitalists who will do the funding and later demand their pound of flesh. He reasoned that political parties need funds to run their operations, especially during elections, and lack of such modes of funding hurts the prospect of good people getting elected. Pai will be looking to spend at least R10 lakh each on Congress, BJP and AAP.

Balakrishnan, who is the AAP candidate for Bangalore Central constituency, has already made a donation of R25 lakh to the party since he became a member in January. He told FE, I joined the party as I liked the idea. We wanted an open and transparent route to funding in Karnataka.

However, it is not just individuals such as Pai who are making their contribution to political parties, as organisations such as Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC), a volunteer citizen group, had endorsed over a dozen candidates in the Karnataka Assembly elections in May 2013, providing upto R5 lakh each to fund their election campaigns.

BPACs members include prominent Bangaloreans including Mohandas Pai, sportspersons Ashwini Nachappa and Nisha Millet, and consultant Harish Bijoor among others.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, president, BPAC, told FE that the action group is focusing on the three urban Parliamentary constituencies in Bangalore where it will endorse candidates. We dont know yet who are all the candidates standing from each of these seats. Once all the nominations are filed, we will do an assessment to evaluate which candidates we should endorse, said Mazumdar-Shaw, who is chairman and managing director of Biocon, Indias largest biotechnology company.

In Bangalore today, there are two former corporate executives from Infosys who have entered the electoral fray Nandan Nilekani and V Balakrishnan. Nilekani, who has declared assets worth R7,700 crore held by him and his wife Rohini Nilekani, has already stated his intention of fighting the elections using his own money. Representing the Congress for the Bangalore South Parliamentary constituency and pitted against formidable Ananth Kumar of BJP, he said during the recent press meet, Im running this myself, I dont want to be obligated to anyone else.

Election funding has become one of the talk-points in these polls, especially with the efforts of AAP towards running a transparent fundraising campaign. The partys website offers near real-time updates on the amounts people have donated to it, along with the transaction numbers. As on Friday, the partys collection from Karnataka amounted to over R1 crore, accounting for 10.3% of the total funds. AAP has had two fund-raising meets in Bangalore on March 15 during the visit of its national convener Arvind Kejriwal to the city. It is estimated that the party had raised more than R50 lakh in this American style-R20,000 per head dinner meet.

It is likely that many more prominent individuals from the corporate world will make their donations to various political parties including AAP in the days to come.