More party funding, ever more opaque

More party funding, ever more opaque

Fresh information and studies on the controversial electoral bonds scheme have again shown that the concerns expressed about the scheme from the time of its inception are well-founded. It was introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2017 as a scheme to make political funding clean and transparent, but it has made the system more opaque and turned out to be one that inordinately favours the ruling party, the BJP. Contributions made through the bonds have overtaken those made through earlier methods like corporate and individual donations and electoral trusts. A recent study made by RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak has shown that the bonds accounted for almost two-thirds of the total donations received by seven prominent political parties in 2018-19. The parties included the BJP, Congress and some regional parties like the TMC and the BJD. 

Every one of these parties received more than half their contributions through electoral bonds. They ranged from 55% to 87% of the total donations received by a party. In the case of Congress, it was 68% and for the BJP it was 62%. The identity of the donors are not revealed to the public, though the government can find out who it is. Contributions made by other methods have to be declared by parties if they are above Rs 20,000. The drop in such donations means that the scope for whatever openness existed in the earlier system has been closed now through electoral bonds. The parties that oppose the scheme also gained from it. There are some, like the AAP, the TDP and the Left parties, which did not receive any contributions through electoral bonds. But the rising popularity of the scheme means that it will soon be the only major political funding method.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission (EC) had reservations about the scheme and disapproved of it. The RBI thought it is risky to allow the use of these bearer bonds, which are as good as currency notes, and the Election Commission has said that the bonds would enable foreign and Indian corporates to route illegal funds to parties. The government has also violated RBI regulations in the issuance of these bonds. It is unlikely that there will be any review of the scheme, because the ruling party has gained the most from it and is in a position to choke funds to other parties. It got 65% of all funds through electoral bonds and more than doubled its income in the last one year. The only remedy seems to lie with the Supreme Court, but the court has again declined to stay the scheme. This is unfortunate for our democracy.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)