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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Indian Politics: Power Play with Corporate Money

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Indian Politics: Power Play with Corporate Money  

"India (leaving apart its political class) is shocked to know about the USD 5.69 Million paid by UK based Vedanta Resources to some or most of its political parties. This fact raised questions on the integrity of political parties and their commitment for the people of India. Why Vedanta didn't name the parties in its report? Why Indian political parties kept quite till the fact came in Vedanta's annual report? Have they furnished detail of these funds in their annual return? Will the Enforcement Directorate (ED) take note of it and hold raids to bring all the irregularities made by all or a section of country's law makers and political parties? And, finally, who rules the country – the greed of parties and their leaders or the corporate interests?"


Palash Biswas



Mining group Vedanta Resources has paid USD 5.69 million (about Rs.28 crore) to political parties in India in last three years. Mind you, it is about just one company as we do not know about other company donations officially as yet. But Anti-Corruption Campaign remains silent on corporate mafia raj! It is no secret, or a wonder either, that policy making in India is all about corporate lobbying. Legislation and governance mean monopolistic aggression against the ninety nine percent masses! The militarised police state has no representation from the excluded excommunicated masses. Pushing the economic drive to boost dollar linked Americanised economy is nothing but ethnic cleansing.


India: Politics and Black Money

All political parties are caught red-handed in the game of black money hegemony. Mind you, it is not any sting operation or media exposure or a fact from any tweet or blog subjected to be banned, it is confirmed and official. Without disclosing the beneficiaries, billionaire Anil Agarwal promoted Vedanta in its annual report for 2011-12 stated that it paid USD 2.01 million to political parties in 2011-12. This donation was, however, lower than USD 3.66 million it had paid in 2009-10 when last general elections were held in the country.

So, how do you opt for an alternative government as every political party is hand in gloves with corporate financers to do the business of public relation in a country that has been converted into a slaughter house? A company spokesperson did not reply to the queries. However, the government's move to make donations to political parties tax-free is being seen as a sign of official acceptance of political money laundering in the form of corporate and non-corporate donations to these groups. It should be kept in mind that Union Budget 2009-10 provided for official acceptance of Companies' political donations. But we never know about the feeding in detail despite muscle flexing media and a viral social media.

Vedanta donation is tip of the iceberg. Thanks to UPA financial as well as corporate management, the Budget 2009-10 proposed to provide 100% tax exemption to electoral trusts. The only caveat is that the trust uses or distributes at least 95% of its income from such sources for the objective it was set up for. Finer details such as the bodies that are eligible to set up such trusts; the ceiling on the amount that could be collected; and maximum amount a political party can collect through such trusts, will be known only after the government finalises the scheme. It is yet another stimulus for making white out of black money in an economy of forgone taxes. And friends, it is an American system directly imported. US economy turned corporate imperialist as corporates fund US political system. All money is white there, nothing black. Money made from prostitution, drug network, mafia activities are also pumped into the democracy. For which America got involved in Afghanistan to break into drug network there to defend the American drug economy. It is happening in India very fast. Let us celebrate for the fact that Indian state defends corporate interest all in the name of internal security. Dare not to link Niyamgiri hills to Vedanta Donations.

Kevin Zeese writes, 'The 2012 presidential election promises to have the most anonymous campaign donations in U.S. history. Unless the Obama administration acts, unknown corporate and wealthy interests will fund massive advertising campaigns against and for candidates but the voters will not know who they are or their real agenda is. The Obama administration can prevent this further corruption of U.S. democracy by taking two steps, neither of which requires action by Congress.

However, in a U.S. election, dominated by multimillion-dollar donations, Democratic President Barack Obama's campaign is about to give small donors a new weapon by starting to accept text message donations for the first time in history, Reuter reports. Marking the beginning of what could be a revolution in U.S. campaign finance, the Obama campaign said on Thursday, it is wrapping up agreements with Verizon Wireless (VZ.N), Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N), U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA - a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE), to open the floodgate for donations by text this week. In the coming days, voters are likely to start seeing a message on video screens at Obama rallies, at the end of ads or on fliers, encouraging them 'to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262.' The numbers spell out 'OBAMA.'

Civil Society distances from people's Issues?

Thus elections in India also have to be dominated by multimillion-dollar donations and, thus, the mandate to be manipulated depending on corporate strength. UID project exposed the corporate policy making and different colours of scams, scandals and sting operations just show the wall writing very clear as never before. Ironically, this system is hyped as transparency in political system despite the blooming political class inflicted with scams without any exception whatsoever. Incidentally, Anna Hazare targets both Congress and BJP for the corrupt political system. Targeting both Congress and BJP, Anna Hazare today said those whose hands are 'blackened' with corruption are levelling allegations against each other and that they cannot provide any future to the country. Hazare's comments came on a day when members of his disbanded team staged a protest against Congress and BJP in New Delhi, marching to the residences of the Prime Minister and Congress and BJP chiefs on the issue of coal block allocation. As the 75-yar-old social activist came out with a new blog handle, which is different from the one on the official website of India Against Corruption (IAC), where he said people will have to think now that no party will give a future to the country. Billion dollar question remains unaddressed at all. As people of India, are we empowered enough to think objectively!

It is quite amusing that the civil society, which does not stand against economic reforms replicating US economy, never does oppose the open market or mass displacement, repression, exclusion, excommunication and, even, ethnic cleansing, launched the anti corruption campaign to sustain the black money social economic political hegemony. The nation witnessed, only, yet another street drama while activist Arvind Kejriwal and hundreds of erstwhile Team Anna supporters were detained, while they marched to the residences of the Prime Minister and Congress and BJP chiefs to demonstrate on the issue of coal block allocation, with police using teargas and water cannons to disperse others in the crowd.

In the Dollar hegemony

Further, the elite ruling class never feels a little bit shame to showcase the shining India dream which has destroyed American masses already. The dollar hegemony is the only survival kit. Just de-link dollar from global economy, America has to starve. Saddam Hussain tried and doomed in the History. But Iran dared America and opened up consumer exchange refusing dollar exchange which is the bone of contention afresh in the Middle East. Nuclear Armament stand-off is nothing but media hype. NASA and Pentagon deleted entire middle class in United States of America. Twenty seven states are inflicted with drought. Internal economic crisis is just like hell losing break! Yet, the black money hegemony replicated and imported agrarian as well as economic crisis from America.

I get regular feed from America and I post them on my blog regularly. Please read! Moon mission is the destination - For whom? America has to defend its corporate interest worldwide and even in the infinite space. Most of American Tax Money is spent on defence. What do we intend to do? The super power nuclear icon, Missile man and former President APJ Abdul Kalam today said the country is suffering from the 'fifth nation syndrome' as it is always the fourth or fifth nation to launch any mission like the space mission or nuclear programme. Simply ridiculous! You want to be number one while majority of the masses are deprived of job and livelihood and subjected to ejection from home, deprived of citizenship and human as well as civil rights. Entire aborigine humanscape is seized within for whom space missions have to be launched, Vedanta has perhaps clarified very well!

Corporate Money in Power Play

According to its annual reports, Vedanta has paid USD 8.29 million to the political parties since 2003-04, when it got listed with London Stock Exchange. However, it did not make a single donation for three years between 2006-07 and 2008-09.

The recent expose of Nira Radia's taped conversations provided general public a sneak preview as to how PR consultants and corporate lobbyists orchestrate deals when it comes to nexus between mainstream news reporting and government officials. Moreover, this brewing source of scam would not have come to the public light if not for the leak of the tapes. It is of no secret that political parties are always on look out for funds to fuel their coffers and initiate spending activities to promote their alliance's agenda and theme directed towards the electorate. Most of such money is usually sourced internally or indirectly from tax-payers' pockets by some agdam-bagdam (ineligible) means. However, the buck doesn't stop over here. If the amount of inflow is substantial in its size, it has to come on record in form of voluntary donation receipts. It can not be stacked or utilized as black money for long without being embroiled into controversy. Thus, political parties gain heavily in the form of `so-called' donations from individuals or corporate entities. These donations could also be termed 'bribe' on the consideration that corporate pays only for the `favours' it receives from a political party.

Exemptions to such donations have been a long-standing demand of champions of democracy and anti-corruption activists. World over, illegal, underhand donations to political parties have been considered a major cause of corruption in public life. A senior tax lawyer, who is also a functionary of a political party, requesting anonymity, said, "After the enactment of Right To Information Act, this is the first major policy decision by the government for inculcating transparency in public life.

"Tata Sons Electoral Trust was the first body set up by a business conglomerate in the country to formalise the process of donating money to the political parties. This Trust was in news immediately after the elections when Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee declined a cheque of over Rs.27 lakh from the Trust. With then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announcing a 100% tax deduction on companies and individuals contributing to electoral trusts, Political parties could now receive more donations. Electoral trusts are created as pass-through vehicles for routing donations to political parties, and are approved by the Central Board of Direct Taxes. Currently, 100% deduction is allowed only if donations are made directly to political parties.

In 2003, India enacted a new law that made private donations to political parties easier. This law allows contributions by private companies to political parties to a maximum limit of 5% of their profits. It also makes it mandatory for contributions to be made by cheque and requires that parties audit their annual accounts and maintain a list of donors who give in excess of Rs20,000 and submit this to the Election Commission.

Do Donations regulate Political Action?

Just see the bargaining! Environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan nixed yet another attempt by Vedanta to get Niyamgiri bauxite mines in Odisha that Rahul Gandhi had stood up against, saving the Congress and its scion some blushes. She ordered that the preliminary nod given by her ministry to the expansion of Vedanta's aluminium refinery, which the company had claimed would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from Niyamgiri mines in Lanjigarh, be held in abeyance to what effectively put the project on hold. The environment ministry had earlier cancelled the forest clearance to Vedanta for mining Niyamgiri hills alleging violation of green norms and hauled up the company for expanding the linked aluminium refinery without mandatory environmental clearance. It asked the company to file an application afresh for the expansion of the refinery. Vedanta went to the Supreme Court against the ban on mining.

Alongside, the company filed a fresh application for expansion of the aluminium refinery. But without a word on the existing rigmarole over Niyamgiri mines, the company said it would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from the Lanjigarh mines. Disregarding the fact that the ministry had rejected Vedanta's bid for Lanjigarh mines, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) division of the ministry gave preliminary nod to the project asking it to go ahead and hold a public hearing on the project based on the EIA report. The report of the company too did not mention, as required, that the claimed source of raw material was bound in legal disputes. Sources said Natarajan stepped in when informed and put the preliminary nod given by her officers to Vedanta on hold. The public hearing now stands cancelled till the ministry takes a final view on the case.

Surrounded and trapped by a number of disputes and controversial issues, Vedanta resorted to make its way to plunder the resources of the land by funding parties and taking political leadership to its side and manipulate with the system to get in and achieve its target. This has become clearer from the data given in its own report about political funding in India!

So, the question is, who and what decide the political actions in the country? Who, through our so called leaders, govern the nation? Can we say, our leaders and their parties are for the people and the nation?

[Palash Biswas is a Kolkata based Writer and Activist working for the upliftment of Black Untouchables worldwide]


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