Handbook of Political Party Funding
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Handbook of Political Party Funding

Edited by Jonathan Mendilow and Eric Phélippeau

Scrutinizing a relatively new field of study, the Handbook of Political Party Funding assesses the basic assumptions underlying the research, presenting an unequalled variety of case studies from diverse political finance systems.
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Chapter 22: Party funding in India

Asha Gupta


India is regarded as one of the biggest democracies in the world. Regular elections have been held at the centre and state levels ever since it became a republic in 1950. The Election Commission is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in India. The elections are held in phases due to the large number of voters and constituencies involved in the 29 states, and the equivalent large number of candidates. The elections in India are considered not only the largest in terms of volume, but also most expensive, beating the US $2 billion estimated to have been spent on the US Presidential election campaigns in 2016. During the past two decades, campaign expenditures rose almost tenfold. This chapter examines the party funding regime in India and discrepancies between regulations and practices – the advantage taken by candidates and political parties of various anomalies in rules and regulations, the vast discrepancies in the election expenditure declared by various political parties in India, and widespread corruption, clientelism and the politicians–business nexus are pointed out. Public party funding has been offered as a solution. However, a point to be kept in mind while debating the need for public funding in India is that it should not be done in a hurry. Though the idea of public funding is in vogue due to issues raised by media, political reformers and small candidates, in reality one should know that political money is not the only factor that determines electoral outcomes. The general political culture, economic development and past history matter a lot. Unless and until proper regulatory arrangements are made and penalties imposed, public funding cannot be effective. It is better to have provisions for direct as well indirect funding in the form of subsidies. One should not expect quick gains from public financing of political parties as its impact is usually over-estimated in public debates. Public financing, in fact, remains only one element ‘in the complex network relation’.

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