Divided on everything else, political parties unite against RTI Act

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File photo: Scenes like this dominated Parliament, but parties are united against RTI Act

New Delhi:  They may have clashed several times in Parliament on Monday forcing several adjournments, but almost all political parties showed rare unity when it came to protecting their turf.

With support from allies as well as the Opposition, the government today tabled a Bill in the Lok Sabha to amend India's most effective anti-corruption tool, the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to keep political parties out of its ambit.

The government decided to amend the law after political parties opposed the Central Information Commission's order in June that six political parties including the Congress and the BJP will be under the RTI as they were substantially funded by public money.

This would mean political parties would have to disclose campaign funding or how members voted during a secret ballot.

But political parties said they "are not public authorities", and cannot function if they have to keep responding to RTI queries on "confidential matters".

The only exception was former UPA ally Trinamool Congress, which moved a motion against the Bill saying it opposed any attempt to insulate parties from the RTI Act. But the Speaker did not allow the motion.

"Political parties use funds donated by the public, so the people have the right to know," said TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi. "The TMC wants even individual MPs to be under RTI."

Earlier in the day, all parties also came together to oppose any move to have the Election Commission oversee poll manifestos for freebies promised during campaigns.

The poll panel consulted political parties after being asked by the Supreme Court last month to frame guidelines on tall promises made in manifestos.

On a plea challenging the Tamil Nadu government's decision to dole out free household items as promised in the AIADMK manifesto, the top court had said such promises of freebies "shake the roots of free and fair polls".

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