Chidambaram supports state funding of elections

Kolkata, Jan 28 (IANS) Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Saturday he supported state funding of elections.

“I would support it (state funding of elections),” he said when asked for comments at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary meet here.

“Fighting an election has become an extremely costly affair. Even getting a ticket becomes a costly affair for candidates of many parties. It costs much more than the Election Commission legally allows (to fight elections),” the senior Congress leader said.

“Elections cost money. You have to convey your message (to the voters). I have in my constituency, 3000 villages. Even to reach those villages, it costs money,” he said.

Chidambaram said he did not know whether his party would support the demand, but would nevertheless raise it in the Congress.

Further, he called for a transparent system through which business could fund elections and find legal alternative means of funding elections through electoral trusts.

“Businessmen are like any other citizens, entitled to support their causes, which will advance business. We must encourage businessmen to set up electoral trusts and make donations to political parties,” he added.

Electoral trusts are considered as non profit companies in India. Trusts can receive voluntary contributions from any Indian citizen or a registered Indian company for the purpose of financing of elections of a registered political party. Section 17CA of Income Tax Rules lays specifies the functions of an electoral trust.

Chidambaram also questioned on election expenditure fixed by the election commission limits.

“How do you fight a parliament election with Rs 35 lakh? Why should you fight an election with only this amount? We must realistically fix the levels of expenditure and at the same time allow businesses to fund elections through electoral trusts,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech on the New Year Eve called for debate on the need to reduce election expenditure.

Asked if Modi was growing popular post demonetisation, he said: “I do not know who will be the ultimate winner in this political battle.”

“He has capitalised on resentment what Donald Trump did in the US election recently. It is about triggering resentment of one section against the other,” he said.

–IANS

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