New Delhi, Feb 22 : The electoral bonds are a regressive reform that has further worsened the "problem of cronies running the country", says former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, who favours a complete ban on corporate donations to parties.
Maintaining that the "role of money power" is the biggest challenge to free and fair elections in India, he says that while politicians are supposed to be representing the people, electoral bonds have enabled the corporates to run the country.
"It is in this context that I strongly advocate state funding of political parties and a blanket ban on all corporate donations. Such drastic measures are called for, as the problem is becoming worse with every election cycle," Quraishi, who joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1971 and went on to become the 17th CEC of India, told IANS in an interview.
He said that in the name of 'reform', the electoral bonds have made the situation "predictably worse" as it has legalised crony capitalism.
"Corporates can now donate 100 per cent of the profits to one political party and control the politics of the country," he added.
Quraishi, who has just published a book titled "The Great March of Democracy: Seven Decades of India's Elections" said that there is "much to celebrate" as India proved the skeptics wrong by emerging as a secular and pluralistic democracy.
Despite setbacks in pre- and post-independence history, Quraishi said, our resolve to preserve democratic norms and institutions has been firm. "But our politicians are letting the citizens down due to lack of political will and lethargy," he lamented.
He said that all political parties "remain united" in their opposition to meaningful electoral reforms aimed at barring tainted legislators from contesting legislators.
"The situation is far from fair when prisoners can't vote in elections but alleged perpetrators of heinous crimes can freely contest elections," he said.
He said that the Supreme Court verdict on criminalisation of politics (2018) was "disappointing" as it put the ball back in the EC's court instead of pressing the government for bringing in legislation.
"It is hard to imagine why the political parties will legislate against their own self interest. No party agrees upon an independent audit of their accounts. To add to that, they have sham inner party elections for choosing candidates," he said.
He also shared that despite the demand for appointment of ECs through a collegium receiving massive support from the civil society and also in the 2015 Law Commission Report, the ruling parties refused to let go of their power to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner and other ECs.
Quraishi said that these issues have pragmatic and workable solutions, which have already been tested in many democracies of the world and urged the political parties to start putting self interest after national interest to solve the issues which ail the electoral system.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)