National Election Fund (NEF):

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April 17, 2024

National Election Fund (NEF):

Why in News ? The Prime Minister’s anguish over the Supreme Court declaring electoral bonds unconstitutional and the consequences of this decision needs to be considered seriously and with a broad perspective.
The former election comissioner of India , S Y Quraishi have been advocating a workable solution, namely, the introduction of a National Election Fund (NEF).
What is NEF ? How It will be different from EB?
• The main argument made when electoral bonds were introduced was that donors want secrecy as they fear reprisals from non-recipients.
• Donations to the NEF would not face any such problem. There are two ways for the NEF to receive money:
• Grants directly from the national exchequer, or donations by corporate and other donors. Since many people resent the idea of being taxed to fund political parties, we may rule out the first option. But the idea of donation to the Fund is workable. We could even consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
• The money collected by the NEF could be distributed among political parties based on objective criteria, like their performance in the most recent election.
• I have suggested that if we give Rs 100 for every vote obtained by a political party, it will have enough funds to run party activities. Since the number of votes polled cannot be fudged, reimbursement based on polled votes would be accurate.
• In the last general election, 60 crore votes were cast. At the rate of Rs 100 per vote, the amount would work out to 6,000 crore. Is this adequate? I’d say yes. This roughly corresponds to the amount raised by all political parties together in five years.
• This scheme meets all the requirements of honesty — no extortion, no bribes, no quid pro quo.
• Of course, all private donations could be banned if we follow this system. And party accounts would be subject to audits by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
• Donors who are keen to fund a political party and do not fear “reprisals” may still do so, but strictly by cheque and under intimation to the ECI, as has been the practice.

The electoral finance reforms.
One, prescribe a ceiling for political parties’ expenditure, as has been done for candidates and make independent audit compulsory.
Two, set up an independent National Election Fund where all tax-free donations could be made.
Three, enforce internal democracy and transparency in the working of political parties and bring them under RTI.
Four, accept the ECI’s proposal to legally empower it to cancel elections where credible evidence of abuse of money is found.
Five, debar from contesting elections persons against whom cases of heinous offences are pending in courts.
Six, empower the ECI to de-register political parties that haven’t contested an election for 10 years, but have benefited from tax exemptions.
Seven, make paid news an electoral offence with two years’ imprisonment, by declaring it a “corrupt practice” (Section 100 of the Representation of the People Act) and “undue influence” (Sec 123(2)).

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National Election Fund (NEF): | Vaid ICS Institute