Former banker Meera Sanyal who contesting from the Mumbai South Lok Sabha seat on an AAP ticket against Congress’ Milind Deora, has said her party is open to corporate funding but with no quid pro quo.
Excerpts of her exclusive interview to Indiatoday.in.
Q: Give us highlights of the AAP’s economic policy?
A: What is holding back Indian entrepreneurs is that they are not able to do business. If you want to start a business, run it, or shut it, it has become difficult. So the first thing we want to do is simplify the environment, make it transparent, make it accountable so that honest business can thrive and flourish.
Q: Have you decided any sector-specific manifesto?
A: There is a lot of misunderstanding about where the AAP stands. A lot of people feel the AAP is against business. We are not against business; we are against dishonest business. We are not against free market; we are against crony capitalism. So that is the distinction.
We believe Indians are very hardworking, very entrepreneurial and very innovative. They don’t need charity.
Coming to specifics, what is our fiscal, agricultural policy etc… that is still work in progress. So what Arvind (Kejriwal) outlined yesterday (Monday) at the CII is the vision and principle that is driving the economy policy of the AAP.
Q: Do you believe tax slabs for the rich are one of the lowest in the world? Should it be increased, should some of exemptions? Relief and rebates should be removed?
A: What is happening with the taxation system? There is a lot of harassment. That’s leading to corruption. Let’s simplify the system, which is not different than DTC which is not placed but talks are going on since the last five years. Our exact tax policy is still being worked out.
Q: Are we living in a corrupt system?
A: Indians are most generous, most decent and most honest in the world…starting from villages to cities. But the system has been corrupt. It’s corruption by compulsion…either by need or greed. I think we could bring in technology to empower and simplify our system. Our economic policy will focus on e-enabling the system, like online passport, IRCTC, IT returns, etc., due to which corruption will reduce. And most important is deterrence and punishing the guilty.
Q: Would you accept corporate funding? I believe AAP’s senior members are in town to meet business leaders in a closed-door meeting. How would you know funding coming in is from an honest corporate house or a dishonest one?
A: One principle is we will accept donations by cheque. And even if we accept it by cash, it would be stated on the website. The issue with corporate funding is if it is hidden and non-transparent, then nobody knows why money was given.
Than you come to me when I am elected and ask please given me this mining licence… that’s where the problem is. So, there is nothing wrong with corporate funding…but it is quid pro quo we are against. We will be completely transparent. That’s our idea.
Q: So no favouritism?
A: Absolutely not. If you believe in the AAP, believe in your country and believe this party is right for the country, please help us. We do need that help. Elections are expensive business. We would value corporates coming and working with us. Let’s create an environment that honest business can flourish.
Q: Does Mukesh Ambani decide policies at the Centre as Arvind Kejirwal claims?
A: I think Arvind was quite explicit about what he said, that lots of things we are talking about are already in the public domain in the Niira Radia tapes. Those are tapes; those are factuals; they are stated. Those are words of the people themselves. Those are not our words. So I think we have to take that at face value.
We are looking for an India where there is equality of opportunity. The problem with crony capitalism is if you are entrepreneur and even I am, then what should succeed is hard work and better ideas. What should not succeed is ‘I have contacts’. Let’s create a level-playing field; let’s create transparency and let’s create accountability. Then whether you are Ambani or any other person, there is a level-playing field. Everyone will have equal chance. That’s what we want.
A: I believe business runs in our blood. Indians succeed in every given circumstances outside India and drive the economy. But the real question is why it does not happen in India. I don’t think we should take names of who are good businessmen or bad businessmen. Let it just say we want honest business.