Former Chief election commissioners have welcomed the cap of Rs 2,000 per person on cash donations to political parties. However, they feel that the provisions can be made more stringent as parties can still find ways to bypass laws aimed at cleansing electoral system of black money.
Sceptical that parties can always hoodwink laws, they also suggest that efforts should be made to make donations to political parties totally "cashless" to usher in more transparency. The former CECs, who had proposed a slew of electoral reforms in their tenure at the Nirvachan Sadan, said the Election Commission should also be given power under electoral laws to "deregister" parties which have not contested elections for a long time as they are being used as a conduit to convert black money.
As part of a major move proposed in the Budget to cleanse the electoral system of black money, hence forth, political parties can receive only up to Rs 2000 in cash donations. Announcing this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors.
As of now, the limit to accept political donations in cash is Rs 20,000. The poll panel had recently asked the government to reduce the cap from the present Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 by changing Representation of the People Act and the Income Tax Act.
"It is a welcome step though not an ideal one... It is 90 per cent perfect. After all, somewhere you have to start," said former CEC H S Brahma, who was succeeded by incumbent Nasim Zaidi.
He said while the cap has been reduced to Rs 2,000 now, "tomorrow, it can be zero. There are several ways to donate money now -- online, cheques, so why use cash at all in comingdays...
It is a good beginning for the democracy and electoral reforms." Another former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami was a little sceptical.
"What if the same story repeats...(political parties can claim) 80 per cent or 90 per cent people gave us cash, they gave us less than Rs 2,000. Then we are back to square one," he said.
He said the first step has been taken to reduce the cap on cash donations, by 2018 it will be clear if substantial receipts of political parties have come from cash donations. He said if more than 10 per cent of the donations are received in amounts less than Rs 2000, "then the entire amount should be taxed".