Open to suggestions to further cleanse political funding: Jaitley

Facing criticism over the new electoral bonds scheme, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said the government was open to suggestions on further strengthening the reform measure.

"The government is willing to consider all suggestions to further strengthen the cleansing of political funding in India," Jaitley said in a Facebook post but cautioned that impractical suggestions will not improve the cash denominated system.

Jaitley said most of the political groups seem fairly satisfied with the conventional system of cash donations that never disclosed the quantum of money and also ensured unclean money coming from unidentifiable sources.

"The effort, therefore, is to run down any alternative system which is devised to cleanse up the political funding mechanism," the finance minister said in an apparent reference to the criticism of the electoral bonds scheme.

The Congress had termed withholding the donor's name was a "regressive step" that would give unlimited access to the ruling party to misuse information and state machinery to coerce donors.

Jaitley said that the new scheme sought to introduce some element of transparency in the conventional system of political funding where the sources of donations remained anonymous or pseudonymous.

He said in the new scheme, how much each donor has distributed to a political party would be known only to the donor. "This is necessary because once this disclosure is made, past experience has shown, donors would not find the scheme attractive and would go back to the less-desirable option of donating by cash," he said.

Last week, the finance minister had announced the contours of the electoral bonds, which will be sold by only at select SBI branches and will have a tenure of just 15 days.

The bonds are being pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties.

Jaitley said the choice has now to be "consciously" made between the existing system of substantial cash donations involving unclean money and other transparent options like cheque, online transactions or electoral bonds.

"While all three methods involve clean money, the first two are totally transparent and the electoral bonds scheme is a substantial improvement in transparency over the present system of no-transparency," the minister said.

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