Proliferation of political parties, money power a concern: former CEC

April 21st, 2009 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) A day after retiring as Chief Election Commissioner, N. Gopalaswami Tuesday said that the large proliferation of political parties as well as the use of money power in elections was a matter of continuous concern.
Speaking to reporters here, Gopalaswami said that while there were seven national parties and 49 state parties, there are about 950 parties in the “other” category. “We are registering at least three parties every week. And the Election Commission does not have the power to deregister parties.”

Hinting that these “other parties” were a cover for other activities, Gopalaswami narrated the case of a ‘political party’ which was being investigated by the Income Tax department and consequently changed its name.

“There was this party called Parmarth, but it was nothing but swarth (greed),” he said. “There always seemed to be one person contributing to the party, so we thought something was fishy.”

The Income Tax department sent its officers and they found “one board, one chair, one table, possibly one telephone and not even one person”.

“All the money they had collected was invested in shares, jewellery etcetera,” said Gopalaswami.

Then, “a great transformation took place in the party - from Parmarth, it became Matribhakt party,” he recounted, adding: “Which is true, as they were paying obeisance to the goddess of wealth Lakshmi.”

Gopalaswami also said that the “amount of money that is now being spent (in elections) is enormous”.

“In Andhra Pradesh this time, 22 crore rupees has been captured. In Karnataka, Rs.16 crore, whereas in the last assembly elections, Rs.45 crore was caught. If what we catch is five or 10 percent of what is actually spent, then depending on your calculation, the amount of expenditure is Rs.900 crore,” he said.

But the former senior bureaucrat said that the money power in elections was a “manifestation of a disease, not the actual disease”.

Gopalaswami said it was a reflection of the wider problem of black money in the Indian economy.

He also referred to the efforts to curb criminals standing for elections, saying the matter was still with parliament for consideration.

“Is this really a thinking democracy which allows these kinds of people to contest?”

To curb bogus voting, he suggested that a single unique identity card should be issued all over the country.

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