New Delhi, Dec 16, 2016: Mr Sanjay Sonawani, President of Swarna Bharat Party, India’s only liberal party, welcomed Mr Modi’s proposal for state funding of elections. As explained at length in SBP’s manifesto, state funding of elections on a per vote basis is an urgently needed, vital reform of governance.
It is in our interest to ensure that honest and competent candidates contest elections. Good candidates are a public good, more important than any other public good. We, the people, must be willing to incentivise such candidates to contest.
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While the level of electoral expenditure is never the only determinant of electoral success, good candidates are defeated in our system even before they start. Honest competent middle class or poor persons refuse to contest elections since they stand to lose their hard earned savings if they lose the election. To add to the conundrum honest people face, honest political parties – which do not sell their soul to corrupt businesses – receive almost no funding.
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State funding on per vote basis is a simple and transparent solution. It is transparent. It is incentive-compatible. It has been successfully implemented in many countries. SBP suggests a reimbursement of Rs.20 per valid vote cast to the relevant candidate up to a maximum of Rs. 70 lakhs per parliamentary constituency. This calculation can be refined.
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Along with this, the security deposit will need to be increased significantly to ensure that only serious candidates contest elections. MP and MLA salaries will need to be significantly raised, while eliminating all perks and pensions.
Some people object to state funding, arguing that politics is a social service. It is preposterous to suggest that those who serve us as electoral representatives should be required to lose their lifetime’s savings “for the country’s sake”. The current system is fundamentally misguided. The results are there for all to see. Everyone who comes to power is guaranteed to become corrupt.
In the reformed system, even though corrupt candidates will probably still outspend honest candidates, good candidates will start participating since their risk of bankruptcy is reduced. That is enough to start changing the system. Such a payment by taxpayers is excellent value to taxpayers, for the opportunity cost of corruption and incompetence is in the tens of trillions of dollars – more than ten times India’s GDP. We have been short-changed by corrupt and incompetent representatives for seventy years. Let’s give the honest people of India a chance.
Mr Sonawani said that SBP strongly supports Mr Modi’s suggestion for state funding – but only on a per vote funding basis. It is important, however, to emphasise that it is not sufficient to implement only this reform. A range of fundamental reforms, as detailed in SBP’s manifesto, are needed in order to make the country a sone ki chidiya once again.