Very unfair. Very unjust. The alacrity with which the Union Government has ordered a probe into the funding of the Aam Aadmi Party smacks of vendetta. True, the order by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde followed a directive by the Delhi High Court to that effect, but it still does not seem devoid of a political agenda. Specifically, foreign contributions received by AAP are to be probed. AAP has welcomed the decision, pleading that the probe be completed in two days. Given that the names of foreign donors have been put up on the AAP website, the task of the investigators is half-done. Besides, AAP has maintained that foreign contributions are from NRIs holding Indian passports. In other words, these contributions are licit and do not violate any law. Indeed, AAP has put the names of all its donors, resident and non-resident, on its website and the same can be verified by the authorities without creating much fuss. However, the real intention of the ruling Congress Party is to undermine AAP’s high public credibility. Whether its funding is all legitimate cannot overly concern Shinde and others in the ruling party, given that they themselves have all along thrived on dubious funds for their politics. Since AAP is the new kid on the political block, wanting to cleanse the Augean stables of Indian politics, the old and degenerate players would like to tar it in the same black hues in which they have been tarred all these decades. Forecasts by various opinion polls about AAP doing rather well for a few months’-old party in the ongoing campaign for the Delhi Assembly seem to have further rattled the Congress leadership. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, a champion poseur if ever there was one, has publicly questioned the sources of funds of AAP. Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP leader, has, in turn, challenged Dikshit to list the names of all donors to the Congress Party since AAP had already done the same, unasked by anyone. AAP has collected some Rs 20 crore thus far, not a big amount, given that the two main political parties have a couple of thousand crores each in their accounts. Besides, unlike AAP, a significantly high proportion of the contributions to the Congress and the BJP is from unknown sources and in cash. Unaccounted money is the bane of Indian politics. And contrary to the claim by all parties that it comes from small contributions below Rs. 20,000 each, the truth is that the main donors belong to the corporate sector, who pay in multiples of tens of crores, but in cash. This is at the root of the prevalent malaise of political corruption and crony capitalism. Such contributors encash their IOUs, once the recipients occupy seats of power. Though political parties file their returns with the income-tax department, but there is little transparency in their accounts. For bypassing the law about cash collections through fudged receipts in the name of anonymous small donors is de rigueur.
Unless there is complete transparency about political funding, it will be hard to minimise corruption. Mayawati’s brother, a lowly clerk in the UP government till very recently, now boasts of over Rs 1,200 crore in cash investments in his business operations, while his sister was in power in Lucknow. Recently, the IT Department felt obliged to stop its inquiry and release Rs 400 crore it had seized on the specious plea that Anand Kumar had paid taxes on it. Clearly, how the sister and her brother had plundered UP was of no consequence to Shinde or anyone else in the ruling party because Mayawati’s bonded MPs could prove crucial in providing the UPA majority in Parliament. Likewise, others in the political arena too are tainted with the brush of black money. In sharp contrast, Arvind Kejriwal is sought to be singled out because he poses a challenge to the cosy club of politicians who thrive on unaccounted funds and run their electoral machinery with them. Hopefully, the people will see through Shinde’s move against AAP.