Kolkata, July 25 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to call an all-party meeting on holding future elections through state funding, saying it was one of the most urgently required electoral reforms in the country.
Noting that state funding of elections is currently the norm in 65 highly developed countries like Germany, Italy, France and Japan, Banerjee said it is also required in India to make the elections “free, fair and transparent”.
“The issue is broadly of electoral reforms and especially to prevent corruption and criminality in our democratic polity. The time has come for Government funding of elections which is the norm today in 65 countries in the world,” Banerjee wrote in her letter.
“Given the examples across the world on Direct Public Funding of political parties and given that India has gained notoriety of having spent the largest amount of funds in the world in elections 2019… I urge you to call an all party meeting with a single agenda of Government funding of elections in India,” she wrote.
Citing a report published by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) on poll expenditure, Banerjee said the expenditure on the 2019 general elections had been roughly around Rs 60,000 crore ($8.65 billion) which is more than the combined expenditure on the US Presidential and Congressional elections ($6.5 billion).
She noted that corruption cannot be checked if the spiralling of election expenditure is not controlled.
“The political parties spend lavishly on publicity and logistics and are said to have even distributed cash for votes. The Election Commission of India has imposed strict limitations on expenditure incurred by the candidates in their election campaigns but not on political parties,” Banerjee said.
“Mother of all corruption lies in the spiralling of election expenditure. If we are not able to address this we can’t check corruption,” she added.