70, this is the number of years that we have been told during election campaigns for which India has been looted by means of scams after scams. Though the scams started happening right after independence, their numbers kept increasing with years in the same way as the Indian population. There is no correlation between the population growth rate and amount of money looted through scams. With time, we also developed many scandalous techniques to steal money illegally.
For us, the millennials, our memory related to scams starts from the Bofors Scandal that happened in 1987. Some of us might also remember the Cement Scam of 1981. In the pre-internet era, it was mainly media and some activists who were exposing corruption. In 2005, Government of India passed the Right To Information (RTI) Act. Many activists used this act as a tool to expose scams and as a result the number of scams exposed to public started growing. At the same time, a war also cropped up between RTI activists and mafias. According to data, number of activists who were murdered while exposing scams might be less than the number of people who were charged as guilty in a scam.
Many other high-profile scams including Bofors, Airbus, Sugar Import, Cobbler, Match-Fixing, Stamp Paper, Flood Relief, Banks, Paddy, 2G, CWG, Arms Deal, Coal Allocation, Saradha Financial, VYAPAM, Adarsh Housing, Punjab National Bank or the recent Rafale, have been uncovered in the last 30 years (read complete list). Scammers find their way around the system and never get caught. Anti-corruption movement acted as a catalyst to our thought process and beliefs that the allied government lead by the Indian National Congress (INC) must go. BJP also tried to benefit from the movement and started proposing claims related to punishing the guilty, opening files related to scams, and making political funding more transparent. As a result, we rooted out the Manmohan Singh led Congress government.
Either it is Congress or BJP, both, along with many other regional parties advocate for anonymous funding to the political parties. They simply don’t want to make the list of their donors public. There is a constant fear that revealing the names of donors will expose the nexus between politicians and corporate companies. A political party is an organization which needs money to run. But, as citizens, we have zero information on the identities of individuals funding the political setups. However, it is a common knowledge among people that majority of the political parties take millions in lieu of providing election candidate tickets. This opens the door for corrupt people to join politics. Money collected from candidates is not enough to run election campaigns, party offices and hire employees, so parties seeks help from other people with financial influence. In return, the political groups promise to design favourable policies for their patrons and turn a blind eye whenever a scam related to their benefactors is unearthed.
Some examples of generous donations from corporate sector to the political parties are given below:
- Congress receives 1/5 of funds BJP gets from donors
- Big corporate donors to the BJP, Congress in FY14
- BJP tops the list of donations from individuals and corporates
- 7 Parties Got Rs. 589 Crore In Donation Above Rs. 20,000; BJP’s Share Rs. 532 Crore
Recently, Cobrapost exposed a Rs 31,000 crores scam. It was alleged that the accused donated Rs 19.5 crores to BJP via shell companies violating the ECI guidelines. It seems that the business of committing corruption is easier than establishing any genuine business. One just has to donate less than 1% (Rs 19.5 crores is almost .63% of Rs 31,000 crores) of the corruption amount to a political party, and everyone is set to roam free.
Although, majority of political parties believe that they should keep their list of donors anonymous and continue taking donations from influential people in return of granting favours, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) thinks differently. Post 2013, equation of donations is changing as AAP is mainly dependent on donations out of goodwill from common citizens. As AAP seeks contribution from the public, its policies are also designed for the welfare of people. Some of the areas where major emphasis of AAP lies are health, education, transport, and environment. After its formation, AAP kicked off a transparent donation campaign by publishing their list of donors to their website. This act started building pressure on other political parties but making the list public was not acceptable to them. So, BJP ruled central government used Income Tax department as a tool to torture AAP donors. AAP party also received some notices from the Election Commission of India and Income Tax department over the use of emotional names (such as “AAP Zindabad”, “5 saal Kejriwal” in support of AAP) instead of actual names entered in the donation database. This made AAP to rethink its strategy and stop publishing the list of donors online.
There is a continuous fight between AAP and other parties over donations. If we neutralize the effect of money as all political parties manage it anyways from known or unknown sources, major difference lies in the thinking process of donors. On one side, there are donors who want to eradicate the influence of corporation in politics such that political parties can work for the welfare of people, and on the other there are corporations who want to make money by snatching away resources meant for everyone.
When it comes to AAP and donations, the party always comes up with innovative ways of fundraising. Recently, on Feb 6, Atishi launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise Rs 7 millions. The campaign was designed to highlight the candidate’s dedication in the area of education along with a transparent gateway for accepting donations online. In a span of less than 1 week, campaigned reached to more than 30% of its goal by raising more than Rs 2 millions.
AAP Volunteers also encourage and challenge each other to fundraise for their favourite candidate. Following Atishi’s Fundraising campaign, musician Vishal Dadlani tweeted to double his Rs 5 lakhs donation if other donors could match the amount of 5 lakhs within 48 hours. The goal was reached within a day!
Even though 73% of the wealth in India is controlled by 1% of the population, We, the 99%, can make the 1% realize that their growth exists because of us. We, can also fund political parties for the benefit of a larger percentage of people instead of just a few. Our participation will ease the level of dependency that political parties have on corporations for their upkeep. This has already started happening in Delhi where AAP is leading the way in the direction of pro-people politics.