|Jagdeep Chhokar addressing ADR seminar in Ahmedabad|
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a top civil rights organization which works for transparency and accountability in Indian politics, has accused “certain parallel associations working abroad” for seeking to utilize the March 2016 amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, to fund political parties.
The accusation comes close on the heels of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) saying that the FCRA amendment would help “foreign-based radical Hindu organizations … to send funds to India without restriction to support hate campaigns” (click HERE to read).
USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission, identifies these organizations as Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA, and the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party-USA.
Refusing to name any of them, ADR’s founder-trustee Jagdeep Chhokar, former professor of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, underlined, “We don’t name organizations and political parties which are funded from abroad. But all know what their activities are.”
On being asked whether he thought organizations attached with BJP and Sangh Parivar were involved in funding hate campaigns in India, Chhokar said, “There is no relationship between a funding political party and supporting hate campaigns.”
ADR is receives its funds under FCRA, which, a participant in the seminar told Counterview, was a major reason why it would not name Hindutva groups for funding BJP. “It adopts a safe, equidistance approach towards BJP and Congress, to avoid any Modi clampdown on the NGO”, the participated claimed.
|IPS officer Kuleep Sharma addressing the seminar|
The amendment, said Chhokar, was in response to a 2014 Delhi High Court decision, in which the court ruled that both the BJP and the Congress were guilty of violating FCRA, because they received millions of dollars from foreign entities for their 2014 election campaigns.
Chhokar gave the example of a Public Awareness and Political Trust, owned by three companies, all of them subsidiaries of UK-based multinational corporation, Vedanta, which he said was “diverting foreign controlled money” to Congress and BJP.
He said, there were in all 19 such electoral trusts, which came up under a 2013 Government of India scheme allowing India’s biggest industrial houses to give money to political parties in the name of transparency in such funding.
As the High Court ordered the Election Commission to act against both the two main parties, Chhokar said, both aligned to bring in an amendment to FCRA in March 2016, which characterized as “Indian” a foreign company owning an Indian entity so long as its foreign investment limits were under prescribed limits, allowing it to give funds to a political party bypassing FCRA.
Addressing the ADR seminar, which was supported by the right to information civil rights organization Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta said that the biggest concern currently is how government and ruling political party is maintaining secrecy in its crucial decisions of giving public resources to private entities.
Ajay Umat, editor, “Navgujarat Samay”, a Gujarati daily, said, “Political parties have been using their machineries and making political appointments at key educational institutions, which is becoming major challenge in the democratic functioning. Information is not shared even with elected representatives to avoid discussions and debates.”
Others who addressed the seminar included Gujarat cadre IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma, currently with the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party leader and ex-BJP MLA Kanu Kalsaria, economist Prof Rohit Shukla and Gandhian activist Indukumar Jani.