People Have A Right To Know Source of BJP’s Funds: Modi

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New Delhi: PM Narendra Modi stepped up his drive against corruption ahead of assembly elections to five states, pledging BJP will be proactive in disclosing funds received by it and urged other parties to follow suit.

“People have a right to know where our funds are coming from,” the PM told the BJP national executive on Saturday, indicating the move is in sync with the government’s demonetisation move.

Coming against the backdrop of the PM’s earlier statements arguing that campaign finance reforms have become an absolute necessity and that it was time the political class shed its resistance to growing insistence for transparency in political funding, Modi’s remarks on Saturday further enhances the likelihood of the government bringing in a bill during the budget session of Parliament beginning January 31.

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Modi had indicated that he would call a meeting of political parties to discuss the issue before or during the session. Senior government sources told TOI on Saturday that the Prime Minister was keen on going ahead on the issue even if all the parties don’t come on board.

BJP and most other national parties get the bulk of their funds from opaque sources. They are helped by a provision in the law exempting them from the requirement of disclosing the source of contributions not exceeding Rs 20,000. Rivals and critics have highlighted this to say that BJP’s funding pattern does not jell well with the opaque manner in which the party sources its funds.

Marking reform of political funding an area he has flagged with increasing urgency — a priority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told BJP’s national executive on Saturday, “A culture of transparency is emerging in the country and politicians should use their wisdom to bring in transparency in running their respective parties.”

Modi’s initiative to bring in transparency can help rebut the criticism about opaque funding. Besides, it carries the promise of projecting him as the agenda-setter on an issue which riles the public.

In his address to the national executive, Modi also set out a “pro-poor” focus and struck an emotional note saying he has a first hand experience of poverty having grown in a family of modest means.

“I was born in poverty, have lived poverty,” he said, adding that working for the poor was not “help” but “service”.

The BJP economic resolution also noted: “Prime Minister’s appeal to all political parties about election expenditure is a revolutionary step as political parties’ freedom from black money and corruption is essential for the making of the India of our future.”

Briefing the media, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quoted the PM to say, “BJP will be proactive in disclosing the source of its poll financing as there must be transparency in funds and people have every right to know about the source of money a political party receives.”

Modi recalled President Pranab Mukherjee’s observations as also the Supreme Court and Election Commission taking up cudgels for poll reforms, Prasad said. He added the PM reiterated the need for holding Lok Sabha and state assemblies elections simultaneously.

Modi laid out the post-demonetisation political line underlining “service for the poor” as the motto for BJP at the closing of the national executive. With demonetisation as the party’s main campaign theme, the message was summed up by BJP’s key campaigner as demonetisation being a major step to curb corruption and reward the honest.