Electoral Bonds Will Increase Opacity, Warn Political Experts, Opposition Parties
According to a report, 69% of political funding in the last 11 years has been from unknown sources. (Photo: PTI)

Electoral Bonds Will Increase Opacity, Warn Political Experts, Opposition Parties

The government has pitched electoral bonds as transparent tool for political funding, but there is growing apprehension that the bonds will instead bring in more opacity.

“As citizens we need to know who is contributing to whom,” Congress Leader and Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, Rajeev Gowda told BloombergQuint. Knowing who is making the donations “is the only way you can understand who is influencing policy,” he said. His party, though, has not made any real protests over the bonds apart from a letter written by Congress treasurer Motilal Vohra.

The government today finalised the terms of issuance of electoral bonds as interest-free banking instruments that can be encashed by an eligible political party through a designated bank account, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Lok Sabha today. The idea was mooted by the Narendra Modi-led administration in Budget 2017-18.

“It was a money bill should have been challenged in Parliament,” according to Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of the Association of Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation that works in the area of electoral and political reforms. “All political parties seem to be in it together because the hope is they will gain,” said Chhokar who has been tracking Indian politics for more than two decades.

The Companies Act, the Representation of People Act and the RBI Act has been amended to just facilitate hoodwinking of people in a large way.
Jagdeep Chhokar, Founder, Association of Democratic Reforms
(Source: Bloomberg)
(Source: Bloomberg)

The other big concern among opposition parties is that the government can access information on who is buying these bonds. “This fails the fairness test because this information is with somebody,” Gowda said.

The banker knows, the RBI knows , the IT department knows. This information is accessible surely to the government of the day. 
Rajeev Gowda, Rajya Sabha MP and Congress Leader

Chhokar agrees that this is yet another “big danger”. “There is an apprehension that as soon as a corporate buys an electoral bond; the party in power will be alerted”.

But Sheshadri Chari of the Bharatiya Janata Party finds these apprehensions misplaced. “Tomorrow it could be the Congress in power and the BJP can raise the same issue,” said the senior BJP leader. He urged parties and citizens to have “faith in the system” and said the anonymity that electoral bonds can provide a political donor “is a big advantage”.

The political party doesn’t know who the donor is so it is protecting the donor also. In case the party to whom the donation has been made doesn’t win, the element of vendetta does not appear.
Sheshadri Chari, National Executive Member, BJP 

Watch the full conversation here.

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