State Funding of Elections

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In the recently concluded Congress plenary, Congress President Sonia Gandhi suggested state financing of elections as a measure against corruption in the electoral process. State funding of elections has been suggested in the past in response to the high cost of elections. A few government reports have looked at state funding of elections in the past, including:

  • Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
  • Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)

Here is what they had to say: The Indrajit Gupta Committee (1998) endorsed state funding of elections, seeing “full justification constitutional, legal as well as on ground of  public  interest” in order to establish a fair playing field for parties with less money. The Committee recommended two limitations to state funding. Firstly, that state funds should  be given only to national and state parties allotted a symbol and not to independent candidates. Secondly, that in the short-term state funding should only be given in kind, in the form of certain facilities to the recognised political parties and their candidates. The Committee noted that at the time of the report the economic situation of the country only suited partial and not full state funding of elections. The 1999 Law Commission of India report concluded that total state funding of elections is “desirable” so long as political parties are prohibited from taking funds from other sources. The Commission concurred with the Indrajit Gupta Committee that only partial state funding was possible given the economic conditions of the country at that time. Additionally, it strongly recommended that the appropriate regulatory framework be put in place with regard to political parties (provisions ensuring internal  democracy,  internal structures and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to Election Commission) before state funding of elections is attempted. “Ethics in Governance”, a report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008) also recommended partial state funding of elections for the purpose of reducing “illegitimate and unnecessary funding” of elections expenses. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2001, did not endorse state funding of elections but concurred with the 1999 Law Commission report that the appropriate framework for regulation of political parties would need to be implemented before state funding is considered.