In India, we have a powerful transparency tool. It is called the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The Government of India has made it compulsory for all government offices and enterprises to implement the RTI act. With the passage of time, all government transactions, businesses and operations have fallen under the scanner of the public view. The general public can now raise queries and inquire about what’s going on in a particular government office at a particular time regarding a particular task. The power of this information is amazing. In a short span of time, a lot of RTI activists have established themselves as active participants working to put responsibilities back on the shoulders of the government servants for completing the referred tasks as soon as possible. The RTI act has revolutionized the government-public interaction. At the international level, India is now considered as a progressive nation-state that values transparency in the public works.
The RTI act has also led to the uncovering of several cases of corruption in the government offices. This has alerted both the government servants and the general public. With such exposures, the government has to come up with newer plans and policies to curb corruption at the government offices. Overall, the RTI act has actually empowered the general public.
Considering all these factors and aiming to serve the general public better, especially the voters of India, the Election Commission (EC) of India has proposed that all political parties should be brought under the scanner of the RTI act. Almost all RTI activists, politically intelligent and conscious Indians and media have endorsed the EC’s viewpoint. The collective vision about the implementation of RTI act in the internal affairs of all political parties is that it will bring in more clarity in the operations of political leadership of the country, and as a consequence, the general public would be able to select the most transparent person as their leader. However, the political parties have shown an equally collective and powerful opposition to this viewpoint.
The political parties consider themselves as private entities. They think that RTI act will be a hindrance in proper and fast functioning of the political activities at the organizational level. They think that instead of focusing on making strategies for winning elections, and governing the country after winning the elections, the political leadership will have to invest considerable time and energy in answering the queries asked through the RTI act. In addition, some of the political parties consider themselves to be ‘already reasonably open’ as far as their political affairs are concerned.
However, the key debate between the EC and the political parties is with regard to the financial matters. Where the political parties don’t want to put the details of their income and expenditure into limelight, the EC considers it to be a big step towards bringing transparency in the country’s political system. In this regard, we have seen an exception very recently. A respectable example was set by the Aam Aadmi Party, when it disclosed the details of donations received from overseas on the party’s official website. However, several politicians of opposition parties raised their eyebrows on this act of the AAP.
With this act by the AAP, we can feel the glimpses of light coming from the other end of the cave. However, the nature and history of the Indian political system, especially the way in which the politicians conduct themselves these days, the task of bringing all political parties under the scanner of the RTI act, and hence bringing more transparency in the Indian political system, seems a far cry for now.