Why these four political parties coming under RTI won't matter

While the six biggest political parties have chosen to ignore the order to come under the Right to Information Act, a handful of regional political parties have embraced it wholeheartedly. However, that won't force the bigger parties to change their ways any time soon.

On 3 June, the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared the six national political parties, Congress, BJP, CPI, CPI (M), NCP and BSP, as public authorities.

However, the six parties have opposed the ruling and last week, the parties missed the six week deadline set by the CIC to take steps that would bring them under the ambit of the transparency law. Most of them argued that wider consultation was needed on the issue.

While the CIC order technically applies only to the six national parties, at least four state parties have said they are in favour of the Commission’s order.

Chennai-based Loksatta Party has said that the verdict would only promote transparency.

All six political parties have ignored the RTI diktat. Reuters

All six political parties have ignored the RTI diktat. Reuters

“The verdict may not be palatable to those who have converted political parties, which should strive for social good, into private estates. It will, however, make parties transparent and accountable and share details of their income and expenditure with people,” the party said.

The seven-month-old Aam Aadmi Party, which will test political waters with the Delhi assembly polls later this year, also backed the decision.

Two Jammu & Kashmir-based parties, the People’s Democratic Party and the National Panthers Party, have replied to the RTI queries filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a Delhi based NGO. The organization had sent RTI queries on various issues to 45 state recognised political parties .

“The PDP’s answers include details of Government allotted Offices and their area, dates on which the offices were allotted, monthly rent being paid for their party offices, details of contributions received by them including the source of contribution, mode of contribution and the amount,” a statement issued by the ADR said.

The National Panthers Party also did not deny information under the RTI, but gave only partial information, said ADR.

However, activists say that the regional parties were too small to exert any real pressure on the national parties to change their opinion regarding providing information under the RTI.

Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi described the four political parties as ‘extremely small’ ones that didn't wield enough influence.

“To influence national parties, you need parties such as the Trinamool Congress or Janata Dal (United) which have played significant role in government formations in big states, speaking in favour of the ruling,” he said.

Mumbai-based political analyst, Jai Mrug, said that bringing political parties under the purview of the RTI would open a Pandora’s box.

“No political party would like to have scrutiny of its sources of income and expenditure of cash,” he said.

“As the party grows bigger, it starts possessing more sensitive information and hence, the resistance to scrutiny, increases,” he said.

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Updated Date: Jul 22, 2013 18:42:58 IST

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