Nov 7, 2013

SPI's Representation to EC Demanding Probe into Foreign Funding


The Chief Election Commissioner


Ashoka Road

New Delhi

Respected Sir,

1. The Socialist Party is in receipt of a representation dated 22.10 2013 from an advocate Dr. Sushil Balwada, who on enquiry, was found to be an Advocate of the Supreme Court of India. It was further learnt from Dr. Sushil Balwada that the representation addressed to you and the Home Secretary was made in public interest and was self-explanatory. We were further informed that as a public spirited individual acting in national interest, Dr. Sushil Balwada felt it appropriate to immediately bring the issue alive to the Election Commission regarding the new scourge of foreign funding in Indian elections as evident from allegations of foreign funds running into several crores being allegedly received by the AamAdmi Party which came to be reported in several newspaper reports annexed to the said representation as published in the Times of India dated 16 October 2013 and in Indian express dated 1 October 2013.

2. Dr. Sushil Balwada was of the opinion that since the matter is to be examined and action taken only by the Election Commission/Government, it was appropriate to make the representation to the Election Commission in the first instance instead of rushing to the Courts since even the Courts would ultimately require the Election Commission/ Government only to take action. We hope the Election Commission has given its written response to Dr. Sushil Balwada about action taken on his representation but we have not heard of any action taken in the said matter.

3. The copy of the said representation was received by us through e-mail with a covering letter which apparently has not been sent to the Election Commission and, for ready reference, is reproduced from the e-mail as under:-

“Dear all

Please consider the enclosed representation with its Annexures in its proper perspective and in the present political scenario where the fiscal Laws of the Land are apparently being flouted by a party claiming to be for the good of the common man which has set a budget of Rs 20 crore for the upcoming Assembly elections and is stated to have received Rs 12 crore in donations from overseas sources. And now their party officials say that they are confident of being able to meet their target well in time for the polls, scheduled to be held in November [December].

We in Delhi have roughly 1 crore 13 lakh voters - (63.68 lakh Male voters and 51.19 lakh Female voters) . Yet their extent of popular support is reflected from the number of ‘local supporters’ which shows that despite their process of collections having begun in February apparently only 36,627 people  contributed to the election funds of the AAP so far, with the highest number of donations received only last month in September — 6,793 people.

As an Aam Aadmi, the least that was expected was that this party would be different from the others and its base support would reflect the support of the common man and would never be dependent upon Foreign Funds.  It is therefore shocking the  specific candidates of the AAP are being sponsored and helped monetarily by money power and other help from abroad and only indicates that the candidates of the AAP would be compromised to follow the dictates of foreign contributors and since they are seeking to first ‘storm’ the Indian Capital- New Delhi, instead of first serving the Aam Aadmi from the ground up - Panchayats, Municipalities as Members or Councellors  instead of straightaway claiming the CM’s chair.

One of stated campaigns of the Aam Aadmi Party has been to target traders. “We thought this would have a ripple effect and would prove to be as good as door-to-door campaigning since a lot of people come to them. Also, these shopkeepers have a good rapport with most of their customers. Volunteers in Seattle made calls to the shopkeepers and convinced them to campaign for AAP,’’ said a spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party. Is the steady rise in prices of daily consumer needs by retailers in Delhi engineered by foreign hands - we do not know?”

4. We are also aware that recently a PIL has been filed regarding the present issue in the High Court and the same stands adjourned to 10th December 2013 by which time the elections in 5 States would be over.

5. However public memory is short and most people are not aware that as early as October 2011, in view of a report by the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR), an independent pressure group for electoral reforms, a complaint was filed by ex-revenue secretary-turned-civil rights activist Shri E A S Sarmathe on which  the Election Commission (EC) had asked the Union Home Ministry to probe the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by both the Congress and the BJP  of receiving donations of about Rs 5 crore each from Vedanta Group subsidiaries —Sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa since the MHA is the nodal ministry for enforcing the FCRA violations.

6. It appears that in its PIL filed in the High Court of Delhi in 2012, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), through its Advocate, Shri Prashant Bhushan alleged that various laws were violated by Congress and BJP by receiving funding from Vedanta Resources and demanded action under provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) against political parties and their foreign funding companies. As per records cited by the ADR in the HC, Dow Chemical is the only firm categorized as a "foreign company" among those firms that donated money to political parties and the DOW paid a sum of ONLY Rs 1 lakh to the BJP during 2006-07. This amount fades into oblivion when seen in the present case where AAP, with Shri Prashant Bhushan himself being one of its most prominent founder members, has openly admitted having received Rs 12 crore in donations from overseas sources. Consequently, in the said matter the HC had, in February, sought a response from Congress and BJP on the plea accusing them of accepting donations from abroad in violation of various laws. It also sought views of the government on the PIL that also demanded direction for a CBI or SIT probe against them for allegedly accepting donations from firms including subsidiaries of Britain-based Vedanta Group. It is also evident that during the arguments before the High Court in the said matter, when the Centre claimed it was investigating the complaint following the Election Commission's letter on the issue and that a decision was yet to be taken, the HC had asked the government to file an affidavit.

7.  It is therefore clear from the above proceedings that the following actions have been taken by the Central Government/ Election Commission in respect of accusation of accepting donations from abroad in violation of various laws:-

i. The political parties-specifically Congress & BJP were directed to give the response to the plea accusing them of accepting donations from abroad in violation of various laws;

ii. That there was a clear demand for directions for the CBI or SIT probe against the political parties - Congress and BJP - for allegedly accepting donations from firms including subsidiaries of Britain-based Vedanta Group.

iii. That the Election Commission has already taken a decision on the issue to direct the Central Government to investigate the complaint in the PIL and the government was directed to file an affidavit.

8. Today we are witnessing allegations and counter allegations on this extremely contentious issue of foreign funding for the purpose of elections going on between AAP, Congress and BJP where receipt of funds from abroad going into several crores is being openly flaunted and readily accepted as being normal practice by vested interests ignoring our laws. The entire country is looking up to the Election Commission, as the supreme body in India with the solemn responsibility to hold fair elections in all respects. It would be strange and unfortunate that whereas there has been positive action to cleanse the election process of criminality in politics yet there is stony silence on the issue of foreign funding.

9. Our Socialist Party has always been in the forefront in championing the cause of free and fair elections based on following the Election Guidelines as well as the laws of the country. The issue of foreign funding, just before the elections, has raised an extremely important issue requiring immediate redressal since the election process has already started. Parties, as the Socialist Party, which have consciously refrained from receiving any foreign funds, stand to lose immensely because of the sheer force of money power being pumped in from foreign countries to fund the candidates selectively. It is shocking that in addition to foreign funding, it is being blatantly admitted that even the election strategies are being worked out by foreign groups in foreign countries, ostensibly acting as pressure groups, over which the Election Commission or the Indian laws have no control whatsoever.

10. In such circumstances, it is strange that no action appears to be contemplated or taken in the present case where there is an admission of foreign funds having been received by a political party and yet the Election Commission is assuming as if these developments are normal and apparently has not even taken the basic care of directing the said political parties to furnish details of such funds and complete details of the groups as well as individuals forming the said groups. The Socialist Party demands that these issues of foreign contributions and help, in cash or in kind, require full exposure and debate.

11. It is extremely unfortunate that an opinion appears to be gathering momentum that there appears to be no accountability whatsoever in existence to fix responsibility in the Election Commission of a person or persons to be held responsible for inaction in such serious issues which may ultimately adversely affect our national interest.

12. In this view of the matter, it would be appropriate that the Election Commission should be proactive in such matters and take immediate action being endowed with the responsibility under the Indian Constitution, instead of waiting for the Courts to take further action. A written and prompt response would be appreciated.

Dr. Prem Singh

General Secretary

Mobile: +919873276726

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