Our finance minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, recently opened a Pandora's box when he said, ‘’For 70 years, India’s democracy has completely been funded by invisible money- Elected representatives, political parties, Governments, parliaments. And I must say that the election commission completely failed in checking that’’ in Delhi Economic Conclave. His words were too true for any kind of denial no matter which side you are on. First thing you need to understand is, invisible money has got two interpretations, one is digital currency which has no form of its own and the second is the money which slipped out of our system’s purview. When our Finance Minister blamed Election Commission for ‘invisible money’, he was certainly not referring to the digital currency.
Though everybody knows how the elections are being conducted in India, I guess, it is the first time in the history of independent India that a Union Finance minister is publicly admitting how the elections were carried out. He took a jibe at other political parties also for not being participative and for preferring status quo on ‘electoral bond scheme’ (we will see what that is) proposed in the budget. In addition to this, he also admitted that the situation was almost helpless and they are trying to fix the ‘Indian normal’ of tax evasion.
Over the last 70 years, there had been many new laws, acts, regulations, verdicts etc to control the black money in the system. However, political parties and politicians have traditionally been immune to those laws. Right to Information Act is the classic example where the political parties and politicians been safely excluded. And, trust me, that’s not the only act where the politicians were skipped, it’s the same story with every other law/act, even NDA failed to include political parties under RTI, no matter what the reasons are it was a failure on NDA's side. Even the Hon’ble Supreme court had to ask for explanation from the political parties for the same.
It is an open secret that our election campaigns are funded by the dirty money or invisible money. Funds to our political parties are not clean, not even close to it. Majority (nearly 70%) of the funds which were received by the political parties were of cash donations from anonymous sources, according to association for domestic reforms. There has been very few attempts in the past to address that issue, and electrol bond, which was introduced in the latest budget, was one amongst them. Prior to 2017-18 budget, political parties were supposed to declare any cash donations that are above Rs. 20,000, however, most of the donations were not declared by stating the donation was below Rs. 20,000/-. In the union budget, govt has reduced that limit to Rs. 2000/-. The idea is to encourage people who want to donate to political parties via Banking channels. So, coming back to electrol bond, electrol bond is essentially a bearer cheque issued by the RBI or the identified banks by RBI. A person who wants to donate funds to a political party can buy that cheque from RBI and can send it to the desired political party, but the donor will not be known to the receiver. And the donor identity will be known to the RBI, the issuer of cheque. Subsequently, political party can encash the cheque through proper channel.
Though the identity of the donor is captured by the bond issuing authority, it will not be revealed to either public or to the political party. So, even after the money went through proper channels, transparency has not increased when it comes to final voter.
The bottom line is, though the electrol bond is a admirable step towards ensuring the clean political funding, it is not a perfect solution and still the process is opaque. The concept of electrol bond is new to the world and there aren't any live cases to study. There is a 'big' room for improvement and that can only be achieved through consultations and discussion. As a voter, I can only wish that all political parties come together to shape the things for better implementation. Even the NDA should take a proactive role in pushing the reforms in one of the most neglected area rather than blaming others for the same. With the majority(soon) in both the houses, NDA has the rarest opportunity to clean up the mess that Congress has created over the decades with the opportunistic policies. And finally, electrol bonds should not be treated as an alternate to bringing political parties under RTI. With the track record that NDA has, I am positive about the inclusion of political parties under RTI.
In : Political Issues
Tags: invisible money black finance minister india arun jaitley electoral bonds bjp nda congress growth digital currency