Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said that most political parties are “fairly satisfied” with the present system of political funding and would not like to move on to a transparent system such as electoral bonds.
“India has not been able to evolve a transparent political funding system.Most political groups seem fairly satisfied with the present arrangement and would not mind this status quo to continue. The effort, therefore, is to run down any alternative system which is devised to cleanse up the political funding mechanism,” Jaitley said in a write-up.
The Finance Minister, who had announced the concept of electoral bonds in his Budget speech for the year 2017-18 and introduced the same in the Lok Sabha on January 2, said that a number of reforms made over the years have resulted in “only a small fraction of the donations” coming through cheques.
“In order to carry forward this reform process, I had announced in my 2017-18 Budget speech that. donations of clean money could be made to political parties in several ways. A donor could enjoy a tax deduction by donating in cheques. Donors were also free to donate money online to political parties.
“In addition, a scheme of electoral bonds was announced to enable clean money and substantial transparency being brought into the system of political funding,” he said, adding the scheme “envisages total clean money and substantial transparency” coming into the system of political funding.
A donor can purchase electoral bonds from a specified bank only by a banking instrument. He would have to disclose in his accounts the number of political bonds that he has purchased. The life of the bond would be 15 days only.
A bond can only be encased in a pre-declared account of a political party. Every political party in its returns will have to disclose the number of donations it has received through electoral bonds to the Election Commission.
“In fact, the choice has now to be consciously made between the existing system of substantial cash donations which involves total unclean money and is non-transparent and the new scheme which gives the option to the donors to donate through entirely a transparent method of the cheque, online transaction or through electoral bonds,” Jaitley said.
Although the Finance Minister said that the amount of money given by a donor to a political party would be known “only to the donor”, the opposition has taken exception to this claim.
The Congress has said that hiding the donor names of electoral bonds is a regressive step and expressed concern that the move may stifle ‘transparency’ and give “unlimited access to ruling party to misuse information and state machinery to coerce the donors”.
The Finance Minister said that the government is “willing to consider all suggestions to further strengthen the cleansing of political funding” but “impractical suggestions” will not help.