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  Opinion   Edit  28 Mar 2024  AA Edit | Poll funds: FM breath of fresh air

AA Edit | Poll funds: FM breath of fresh air

Published : Mar 28, 2024, 11:55 pm IST
Updated : Mar 28, 2024, 11:55 pm IST

Finance Minister's revelation about lacking personal funds for election campaign highlights the staggering costs of Indian elections.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses the ‘Times Now Summit 2024’, in New Delhi, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)
 Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses the ‘Times Now Summit 2024’, in New Delhi, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

The finance minister’s statement that she does not have the money to fight the polls drips with irony. In a country in which all and sundry aspire to get a ticket from one party or the other to stand for election as a legislator, the finance minister’s honest admission that she does not personally have the money to be in the poll fray may be welcomed, more so because the world’s most expensive democratic elections ever will be fought from April 19.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who was in office when a major proportion of the controversial electoral bonds were banked by several political parties, is being transparent in suggesting she does not expect her party BJP to fund her campaign from either Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, which were the two states she was asked to consider for an electoral debut.

There has, however, been a long tradition of India’s finance ministers not quite fulfilling the “winnability criteria” that ruling parties expect and so many held office by virtue of being made members of the Rajya Sabha. Pranab Mukherjee started in the Rajya Sabha and Arun Jaitley stayed there after his poll foray was not successful. Why, even the two-term Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was from the Rajya Sabha.

The irony kicks in when the holder of the purse strings of a nation that is the fifth largest economy in the world but cannot contest in the polls as the process is way too expensive. Considering candidates will be spending an estimated Rs 1.2 lakh crores, besides the Election Commission of India bearing the increasing costs of running the polls, while political parties have together encashed Rs 12,769 crores of poll bonds, Ms Nirmala is the clear outlier who says she does not have sufficient personal funds to run a campaign.

It is an ill kept secret that while parties may be expected to spend money on their candidates, some of them even take money to allot seats because there is such a clamour to become one among 543 directly elected Lok Sabha MPs. In such a scenario, Ms Nirmala’s frank admission and her viewpoint on the difficulties of contesting in the polls comes like a breath of fresh air. It is a conundrum of Indian democracy that she belongs to the party that benefited as much as all other parties put together in an ingenious electoral bonds scheme.

Tags: finance minister nirmala sitharaman, election campaign funding, electoral bonds