Electoral bonds: 10 questions ANI did not ask PM Modi

In an interview to the news agency on 15 April, the Prime Minister defended the electoral bond scheme and repeated his threat that critics would regret it soon

PM Modi at a roadshow in Rajasthan (photo: @BJP4India/X)
PM Modi at a roadshow in Rajasthan (photo: @BJP4India/X)

A.J. Prabal

Accusing the Opposition of spreading lies on the electoral bond scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi — in his latest interview to ANI ahead of the first phase of polling — credited the scheme for letting people link political donations to donor companies and recipients.

It was therefore transparent, he claimed, oblivious to the irony that his government had fiercely opposed petitions challenging the scheme in the Supreme Court for over six years — and had not too long ago claimed the citizens have in fact no right to know who the donors are. And even after the court order, the SBI can't seem to stop stalling and trying to 'secure' the scheme against transparency.

But setting that aside for the moment, is the Prime Minister issuing a veiled warning that if he returns to power, his government will bring in a new law and restore the electoral bonds scheme (once again, presumably, without consultations with stakeholders)?

In any case, now that the Prime Minister has come out openly in defence of the scheme (finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended it last month and claimed it was the first, small step to cleanse political funding and do away with black money), he might answer the following 10 questions that ANI editor-in-chief Smita Prakash did not ask him:

1. Why was the scheme not deliberated in Parliament and inserted surreptitiously into the Union budget speech in 2017? Why were consultations not held with the Election Commission and with other political parties?

2. Why was the Reserve Bank of India informed of the scheme barely two days before the union budget and over the weekend, and that too when the finance department woke up to the necessity of getting the RBI on board under the law?

3. Why were the central bank and the Election Commission’s objections to the scheme not addressed?

4. Why was the Reserve Bank of India’s offer to issue electoral bonds turned down in favour of the PSU State Bank of India?

5. Why was the RBI’s suggestion to issue the bonds digitally, in order to monitor the money trail, not accepted, with the scrip being favoured instead?

6. Why were the laws amended to allow companies to donate unlimited amounts, pulling away the ceiling of 7.5 per cent of the average profit earned during the three preceding years?

7. Why were restrictions on foreign companies and loss-making companies making political donations removed?

8. Why did his government oppose petitions demanding full disclosure of donors and recipients for six years? Why did the government tell the Supreme Court that voters had no right to know about donors?

9. Since the PM admitted in the interview that the scheme may not have been perfect, what had his government done since 2018 to improve the system? If he is so concerned with political funding, why has his government taken no initiative to explore the best practices in other countries and evolve a consensus?

10. By amending the Companies Act and removing the need for companies to disclose to shareholders to which political parties they donated, what was his government trying to achieve? Transparency?

For the record, this is what the Prime Minister said in the interview: “…I wanted that we try something... how can our elections be free from this black money, how can there be transparency? There was a pure thought in my mind. We were looking for a way. We found a small way, we never claimed that this was the absolute way.”

He went on to say, “Whether what happened in the process was good or bad can be an issue of debate, I never say that there is no shortcoming in decision making. We learn after discussing and improve. There is a lot of scope of improvement in this also. But today we have completely pushed the country towards black money, hence I say everyone will regret it. When they will think honestly, everyone will regret it.”

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines