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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Funding controversy: Kejriwal and AAP have come out tainted

 |   5-minute read |   04-02-2015
In the context of dubious fund collection by AAP, as alleged by former AAP party members who now identify themselves as AVAM (AAP Volunteers Action Manch), I was reminded of renowned journalist Heather Brooke's pithy words, which perhaps best sum up Arvind Kejriwal's politics - "Public relations is at best promotion or manipulation, at worst evasion and outright deception. What it is never about is a free flow of information."
First consider what has now come in the public domain. AVAM, a group of former AAP party members, has shown with documentary proof that on April 5th 2014, at the stroke of the midnight hour, as the whole world was asleep, AAP's donation collection team was awake and having one of their best hours in the darkness of the night. Four companies, with similar directors, each having bogus addresses, made a donation to AAP of Rs. 50 lakh each, thus totaling a donation of Rs. two crore. As investigations by other media houses has now shown, all these four companies are shell companies, with no verifiable address, no company transaction, no profits declared on RoC website and yet these companies made such substantial donation to Arvind Kejriwal's AAP.

Several questions arise on this particular expose itself. As per the declared policy of AAP, any donation of value Rs. 10 lakh or above has to be vetted by the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of AAP before being accepted. Arvind Kejriwal heads this committee. Kejriwal is a person who has spent his entire career in the IRS and by training his only expertise is to catch fraudulent transactions. Yet, Kejriwal cleared such high value donations to his party by fake companies which were all having similar directors, whose registered address were in such places as slums and temples? The other members of the PAC of AAP may have been innocent of the ways of how black money is round tripped as donations, but how did the most standard method of converting black money into white escape the attention of a "competent" career income tax officer as Kejriwal? The oft repeated claim of AAP is that it is a new party struggling with funds and therefore seeks small donations from people to fund its activities. For such a party, Rs. two crores coming in a few minutes, from the same set of people, should have been really big amount alerting the entire party? Then how did it escape the attention of Kejriwal and other members of the party that they did not try and verify the antecedents of perhaps their biggest donors till date? Or is it not a case of omission but a case of commission?

I was involved with the BJP 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign as a volunteer. One of the activities that the BJP successfully experimented in the 2014 campaign is retail funding, collecting donations directly from people and thus reducing reliance on corporate donations. I was witness to countless examples of people donating amounts varying in the range of a few thousand and then calling up designated volunteers of the party to first confirm whether the donation has been received and then to find out how the money would be deployed. It was hard earned, legitimate money of people and they were completely involved in tracking it till the end and satisfying themselves with the way money was being used. No value is small when the donation is from legitimate sources of income. Conversely, when illegitimate money is being parked, then only do donors have incentive to remain hidden.

As I first heard of AAP's defense against AVAM's allegations, that it was not their task to find out who donates to them such huge amounts, I could not but wonder as to why those who made relatively small donations to BJP would be very happy to call up and indulge in two-way conversations to track the use of their money but those who made such a large contribution of Rs. two crores to AAP would then hide themselves in the cover of midnight darkness? And why would Kejriwal and his party also would make no attempt to find the antecedents of such large benefactors?

The truth is that the entire gimmick of putting up donors list on their website is a public relations exercise by Kejriwal, which as Brooke observed for public relations exercises, is a case of outright deception and not a case of free flow of information. This is also consistent with Kejriwal's overall politics of public relations, which always falters at first hurdle of investigation itself. In the current Delhi election campaign, AAP is running billboards across Delhi which compares the domestic per unit rates of electricity during his tenure with industrial per unit rates at present, and then deceives the voters by claiming that rates during his tenure were cheaper.  

Kejriwal promised never to ally with Congress but did so at the very first opportunity; Kejriwal promised to serve the people of Delhi but abandoned them in 49 days to pursue other personal dreams; Kejriwal promised the voters of Varanasi that win or lose he is there to stay permanently but has not returned even once post defeat and has now returned to Delhi abandoning Varanasi - the entire politics of Kejriwal is about evasion and deception. Is it then any surprise that the very foundation on which Kejriwal built his entire edifice - that he is a man of financial and moral integrity - was also merely a public relations exercise, the truth being closer to almost entirely as black as that transaction at midnight?

Source: dailyo

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