Why the Congress government will keep pursuing AAP’s funding
Some time in November last year, lawyer ML Sharma filed a PIL alleging that the Aam Aadmi Party’s funds were procured from dubious sources. The PIL prompted the government at the Centre to direct a probe into its funding. At the time the party was facing these allegations,
AAP sources had told Firstpost that there funds were completely clean and the party had valid documents to prove it. “Thirty percent of our donations have come from Indian citizens living abroad and all the payments have been channelised through the banks, so there is no question of discrepancy and everything is transparent. It’s mandatory for the overseas donor to prove their Indian citizenship before making a transaction,” Pankaj Gupta, member of the national executive of AAP told Firstpost’s Soumik Mukherjee. Now, almost two months on, the Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that the Aam Aadmi Party is yet to reveal the sources of funding to the government and the court. “We have asked for certain details from them regarding bank accounts and other information vide our letter dated 4 November, 2013.
We had also sent another letter to them. But there is no answer,” Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra, appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the court. Firstpost editor Dhiraj Nayyar had noted in a previous article that the probe against AAP was ridiculous, especially because of the law that was being applied to haul them up. The Foreign Contributions Regulation
Act (FCRA) is generally used to monitor and regulate the entry of foreign funds to non-profit institutions in India (including political parties). In general practice it is mostly used to keep a tab on the several NGOs working in the country. Nayyar noted: “The application of FCRA to Kejriwal’s party is particularly bizarre because the Congress and BJP have received funding from multinational corporations like Vedanta (according to research by the prominent NGO,
Association for Democratic Reforms). If mindless application of a problematic law is the chosen path, then why aren’t the Congress and BJP also being investigated?”
Though today’s development was just one that followed the course of law after a PIL is filed, it is perhaps not too mistaken to say that the Centre will not bury the issue of Aam Aadmi Party’s funding just yet.
While it is clear that the AAP has not furnished proof of its funding to the Centre, it is not difficult to see a ego battle being fought in the garb of a legal war. Kejriwal’s party’s thrust has been anti-corruption and if the Opposition is able to prove that the party is itself not squeaky clean when it comes to funding, it will be a weapon of great use to demolish the AAP. Even if the
Congress can’t themselves detect irregularities in AAP’s funding, it will possibly suffice to suggest in these turbulent times that there must be a reason why the AAP doesn’t want to furnish a clear record of its funding.
It will be possibly enough if the Opposition can turn the needle of suspicion to AAP’s anti-corruption agenda, given that the party has put itself in enough muck with its mishandling of the Khirki Extension-Somnath Bharti incident.
Given that voter confidence in AAP is already swaying, if the Congress or BJP can raise a credible doubt about its the very foundation of AAP – the anti-corruption agenda – it will be a blow that Kejriwal’s party will find hard to defend. Add to that expelled MLA Vinod Binny’s theatrics over the Jan Lokpal Bill for Delhi and the opposition might just have a weapon to fell AAP’s anti-corruption agenda.
While one can guess, in this war of egos, the AAP is unwilling to cede ground and furnish its funding details to the Congress government, they’re better advised to give in and take away the Opposition’s chance to bolster their agenda against Kejriwal’s party.
Because the Congress will neither withdraw support from the AAP – citing a plethora of reasons like stability in Delhi, intention of ‘exposing’ AAP – nor will it let AAP live in peace. And the funding issue is one which can be potentially very disruptive for AAP’s national discourse.