New Delhi

Building on his anti-corruption narrative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday backed the Election Commission’s suggestion for capping anonymous political donations at Rs2,000.

The cap is Rs20,000 at present.

Addressing a rally at Kanpur, ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, Modi defended demonetisation of high-value banknotes, while attacking the Congress-led opposition for protesting against the move and stalling the winter session of Parliament. 

“I respect the Election Commission’s appeal to political parties to act against black money. BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) welcomes this... I request the Election Commission to take this suggestion forward, discuss this with everyone. Whatever is the outcome of it, our government is determined to take any step which is for the benefit of the common people,” Modi said. 

He then posed a challenge to the opposition, claiming that he had, prior to the start of the winter session, proposed a discussion in Parliament on poll funding reforms. The prime minister’s remarks come just two days after he hinted at more anti-corruption initiatives.

The BJP’s political rivals appear to be rising to the challenge, implicitly generating political consensus on the long-awaited reform of poll funding. The Congress welcomed the Election Commission’s proposal. Randeep Surjewala, the party’s chief spokesperson, said: “(The) Congress party has always supported any right step in democracy to increase accountability of political parties. But Modi differs in his words and actions.”

“It is not a question of supporting recommendations made by the Election Commission, it is about supporting election reform. Election Commission’s task is to ensure free and fair elections. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that this is taken up in Parliament,” said Mohammed Salim, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). 

Analysts say that while such recommendations will help promote greater transparency in funding of political parties, ultimately parties will need to walk the talk. 

“The whole thing about political funding is a black box and any recommendation like this will help in promoting transparency. Lack of desire among political parties to be transparent about their funding is a key problem. It is the fountainhead of corruption, especially when the whole country is suffering from (the impact of) black money,” Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of New Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms, said.

At the rally, Modi defended demonetisation though he conceded that it had caused disruption. 

“I am aware of the kind of trouble people have had to face... I have said that there will be different kinds of problems for 50 days. After that they will reduce.”

Modi also launched the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme in Kanpur.

Making change and the fight against corruption the central messages of the BJP’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, Modi said, “In the past few days, wherever in Uttar Pradesh that I have had the opportunity to visit, I am seeing that there is a storm of change that has started. It looks like in the upcoming elections every resident of UP has joined the force to bring change.” 

The BJP is waging a high-stakes electoral battle against incumbent Samajwadi Party, challenger Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, which has seen a depleting electoral presence in the state.

Criticizing the ruling Samajwadi Party, Modi said that the state government was stalling the Centre’s efforts to develop the state. 

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