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Sunday 19 January 2020

Electoral bonds akin to institutionalising corruption: INC

Objecting to the introduction of electoral bonds by the government, INC MP Manish Tewari based his speech largely on a HuffPost report while claiming it was what he had learnt through answers to his RTI applications

Continuing with its strategy of stalling the winter session of Parliament, the INC today created a ruckus in both the Houses on various issues but raised some pertinent points of objection as well. In the Lok Sabha today, MP Manish Tewari raised the issue of electoral bonds in the Zero Hour. He said that by the issuance of these bonds, the government was institutionalising corruption.

The Narendra Modi government has been pushing the idea of electoral bonds since then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s tenure.

In the Rajya Sabha, INC MPs and other opposition parties created a ruckus on the issue of electoral bonds. The INC also staged a walkout from the Upper House after which the Rajya Sabha had to postpone the proceedings till 12 noon.

Tewari termed the government move as an “intervention of capitalists” in politics. He said, “I want to draw the attention of the House towards electoral bonds. RTI in 2018 revealed that government overruled Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds. Despite warnings by the Election Commission and the RBI, the government issued electoral bonds. This is a cover-up of corruption by the government.”

Tewari continued, “Before 2017, there was a basic structure in this country. There was control over the interference of rich people in the country. There is no clarity on donor and their identity. The electoral bond scheme was limited to elections. The irony is on April 11, 2018, PMO had ordered to issue illegal electoral bonds.”

Relating his case to the Karnataka election, the Congress MP said, “I want to tell you very seriously and responsibly that earlier this scheme was limited to general elections of Lok Sabha only. Ironically, it was implemented in the Assembly elections just before the Karnataka elections on 11 April 2018.”

The Lok Sabha Speaker at this point instructed Tewari not to mention names intermittently. In response, the INC MP said that he had the information and paper received through RTI and he would put it on the table.

Tewari was referring to the recent reports in the HuffPost that suggested that the government had ignored suggestions and warning by the RBI and the Elections Commission on the scheme when it was proposed in 2017. Further, the report had claimed that the PMO had asked for an additional window through which electoral bonds could be sold ahead of the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections although the scheme was to be limited to the general election.

Electoral bonds explained

Electoral bonds, introduced with the Finance Bill (2017), allow donors to pay political parties with banks as an intermediary. These bonds can be issued only by the State Bank of India as of now.

Range of a bond: Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore

Availability: 10 days each in the months of January, April, July and October, with an additional period of 30 days specified by the Union government in the year of general elections

Validity: 15 days (from the date of issue)

A person who is a citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India can buy electoral bonds and then donate these bonds to the political party of choice “anonymously”.

To buy and transfer these bonds, the person or entity has to provide some authentication details to the bank but the names of donors are kept confidential — even from political parties. Anonymity is intended to prevent the political victimisation of the donor.

With inputs from Hindustan Times, Quartz India and Network 18

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