[Answered] Discuss the implications of disparities in electoral expenditures and the absence of spending caps on political parties in India on the democratic process, and suggest measures to enhance electoral transparency and fairness.

Introduction: Brief context to the question

Body: Highlight implications of disparities in electoral expenditures and measures to resolve them.

Conclusion: Way forward

The disparities in electoral expenditures and the absence of spending caps on political parties in India have significant implications for the democratic process.

Implications

  • Unequal Playing Field: Without spending caps, political parties with greater financial resources can outspend their competitors, leading to an unequal playing field. During the 2019 general elections, the BJP and the Congress collectively spent an astronomical sum of over ₹20 billion.
  • Corruption and Influence Peddling: The absence of spending limits creates opportunities for corruption and influence peddling. Wealthy individuals or corporations may donate large sums of money to political parties in exchange for favours or access to policymakers, undermining the integrity of the electoral process and compromising the representation of the people’s interests.
  • Marginalization of Small Parties and Independent Candidates: Smaller parties and independent candidates, who may lack the financial resources to compete with major political parties, are often marginalized in elections.
  • Undermining Democratic Values: Excessive spending in elections can erode democratic values such as equality, fairness, and accountability. When electoral outcomes are influenced by money rather than the merits of candidates’ platforms or the will of the electorate, public trust in the democratic process diminishes, leading to disillusionment and apathy among voters.

Measures to enhance electoral transparency and fairness

  • Introduce Spending Caps: In alignment with global practices, the EC’s ‘Proposed Electoral Reforms’ report in 2016, advocated for the introduction of expenditure ceilings for political parties in India.
  • Public Funding of Elections: Introduce public funding for political parties and candidates to reduce their reliance on private donations. Public funding can be allocated based on the parties’ electoral performance or other objective criteria, ensuring equitable access to resources.
  • Regulating third-party involvement: Various countries like the UK & Australia offer insights regarding the regulation of third-party involvement. This includes formal registration and disclosure requirements for third parties, & imposing differentiated limits on targeted spending, spending in each constituency.

Conclusion

The measures listed are essential for increasing transparency and accountability, curbing the unregulated flow of money, preventing quid pro quo arrangements, and checking the influx of black money into the electoral process.

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