SC must take up electoral bonds case, a tool to augment BJP’s war chest, to preserve India’s democratic ethos

Clear evidence is available that the scheme gives tremendous benefits to the BJP, adding to its unprecedented financial muscle which it misuses during polls in particular

Representational image
Representational image

Gyan Pathak

A scheme that overtly or covertly benefits a particular group or party must be struck down to ensure impartiality. The sale of electoral bond in India falls in this category, since it benefits the party, the BJP, which conceptualised it. However, despite concerns expressed by the Election Commission of India over its misuse and many pending petitions challenging it in the Supreme Court, the Modi government went ahead with its sale from October 1 to October 10, 2021. Protests by political parties against it have gone unheard.

It is the 18th phase of electoral bonds sale since the scheme was notified on January 2, 2018, comes ahead of the assembly elections due in five states early next year. The sale of the interest-free banking instruments is being undertaken at 29 specified branches of the State Bank of India in multiples of Rs 1000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore.

There is clear evidence that the scheme gives tremendous benefits to the ruling BJP regime, giving it unprecedented financial muscle which is misused by it during polls in particular, going against the spirit of free and fair election in a democracy and taking away a level playing field.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has always insisted that it conducts ‘free and fair’ elections. In 2017, it had raised serious concerns regarding the electoral bonds, but nothing much came of it. The Modi government simply went ahead to implement it and the Election Commission is compelled to conduct elections on this “unequal footing” which clearly favours the BJP.

Even the Supreme Court of India had expressed its concern about the possible misuse of the electoral bonds in March 2021, but it is yet to take up the case.

The allegation against the BJP is that it has devised the scheme in such a way so as to benefit it more than any other political parties. It gives BJP financial muscle power using money donated by big corporate players. This allegation needs to be seen with the attempts of the Modi government to make rules in favour of corporates, such as the four controversial labour codes, and the three farm laws which aims to bring corporates to the farms. Even in the big ticket privatisation of banks, insurance sector, railways and ‘monetization’ plan, the Modi govt’s tilt towards corporate is crystal clear.

In this backdrop, one cannot brush aside the allegation that corporates and the Modi governments are hand in glove with each other.

BJP has moved systematically since it came to power in 2014. It has always been trying to weaken the opposition political parties through various legal or illegal means. Everybody knows that money is used to engineer political defections, especially before or during elections. The opposition’s demand for transparency is, therefore, justified. The country must know who is donating money to which political party and how much.

It has always been alleged that the Modi governments favours those who make political donations to the BJP and make the life of those donate to opposition political parties difficult. Though the BJP claims the donations made through the electoral bonds are anonymous, the SBI, a govt entity, would have all the details.

There are numerous other questions, such as regarding dubious transactions through repurchases of these bonds, misuse of power to extort donations by the ruling party, victimization of the donors to opposition political parties and so on. BJP’s share in the donations is disproportionately high, especially when we compare it to its support base with other opposition party’s support base.

BJP got 76 per cent of electoral bonds up to August 2021 which were purchased in 2019-20. It doesn’t have this much support base among the public and therefore it is clear that moneyed people are funding the party.

The Supreme Court has, of late, shown concern for the upholding of democratic values of the country. There have been many moves for protecting the rights of common citizens under the present Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. It is hoped that the apex court gives priority attention to the petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bonds.

(IPA Service)

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