West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has assiduously avoided meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But she wrote to PM Modi today, urging him to call an all-party meeting to discuss government funding of elections in the country.
Citing a report of the Centre for Media Studies on the 2019 polls, Ms Banerjee said the 2019 elections was the most expensive ever, anywhere. A whopping Rs 60,000 crore was spent, almost double that of 2014. The next general election could see the total expenditure rising to Rs 1 lakh crore, she said.
"The mother of all corruption lies in spiralling election expenditure. If we are not able to address this, we can't check corruption," Ms Banerjee quoted Dr N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, as apparently saying.
Pointing out "flaws" in the system, Ms Banerjee wrote: "You are perhaps well aware that political parties spent lavishly on publicity and logistics and are said to have even distributed cash votes. The Election Commission of India had imposed strict limits only on the expenditure incurred by candidates on their election campaign and not on political parties."
"The issue is broadly of electoral reforms and specifically to prevent corruption and criminality in our democratic polity. The time has come for government funding of elections, which is the norm today in 65 countries," she said in the letter.
Electoral reforms appear to have made a serious comeback in Mamata Banerjee's priorities after the disappointing results for the Trinamool Congress and the inroads made by the BJP in West Bengal during the recent Lok Sabha elections. She had declared on July 21 that all elections conducted by the State Election Commission of Bengal will go back to the ballot paper system, and hoped that the rest of the country would follow suit.
On Sunday, referring to the huge majority won by the BJP across the country, Mamata Banerjee said: "This election is a mystery, not history".
This is the second letter Mamata Banerjee has written to the Prime Minister over the last one week. On July 23, Ms Banerjee had written to PM Modi to protest the privatisation of ordnance factories in the country.