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It's high time electoral bond system ended

Its high time electoral bond system ended

The latest revelations about electoral bonds show that India's electoral landscape is more mysterious and opaque than previously thought. The results of an investigation by the Reporters' Collective show that important information was withheld from the public, and even the constitutional institutions have connived in this deception. Firstly, the election bond system itself is an extremely opaque financial transaction. Secondly, in addition to concealing the exact figures, it appears that there were attempts to misrepresent even the overall figures. The Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to submit the figures of donations received through the Electoral Bond in a sealed envelope. Accordingly, the Commission submitted confidential reports on 105 political parties by 2020. In fact, what the court had said was only the parties who received donations through the electoral bond should submit their accounts. However, the Reporters' Collective points out that the Commission has increased the number of sealed envelopes by asking for 'nothing received' reports, even from those who do not know what an electoral bond is. It means when only 17 parties received the bond money, submitting 105 envelopes has helped to veil the fact that such donations are terribly concentrated on a few parties. Thirdly, even after it was challenged in court, this bond system, which is detrimental to democracy and elections, has taken place with elections and governments government formation in which such donations did play a part.

'Democracy' is moving forward by keeping all the doors open to domination of money power and corporate subordination. Under the Electoral Bond system, corporate entities and individuals are not required to disclose details of donations given (who gave and how much) to political parties. Except for the donors and the parties that receive it, the people, the actual centre of elections, do not need to know. From the fact that crores were given as bonds, one can guess that most of them are corporate providers. Giving such a large sum of money cannot be without expecting a lot in return. At present, it is not clear whether the impetus of the electoral bond is behind the big projects and initiatives that some corporates have been gaining in recent times.

Petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court questioning the legitimacy of this mechanism, which undermines democracy. As part of the case, the court requested sealed envelopes from the Election Commission. But things did not move forward in the middle of covid pandemic after that. That's why the 'Reporters' Collective' collected that confidential information through other ways. Contributions made during the financial years 2017-18 to 2019-20 were collected from interviews with party leaders and compared with the annual audited figures submitted by the parties to the Election Commission. Their findings reveal why there is so much secrecy in this matter. During the investigation, only 17 parties received Rs 6201 crore through bonds. Of that, 4215 crore went to the BJP (68 per cent). The Congress got Rs 706 crore (11 per cent), the BJD Rs 264 crore (four per cent) and the remaining 14 parties Rs 1,016 crore (16 per cent). The fact that 91 per cent of the bonds were worth Rs 1 crore each is a testament to the corporate presence and clout wielded by money power. The Public Interest Litigations questioning the concealment of donor information have been in courts for years but their legal validity has not been reviewed yet. .

Transparency and people's right to information are the core of democracy. But the Modi government's amendment to the Reserve Bank of India Act was to eliminate all that. The system of concealing information is not only corruption but also the destruction of democracy itself. Instead of discussing the real problems of the people in elections, communal and sectarian issues are getting highlighted. Although the reliability of the voting machines was questioned, no clear and publicly accepted action was taken. In addition to this, there is this lack of transparency and deception in donations to political parties. And, as far as information goes, there is a terrible imbalance. The Supreme Court must not wait to intervene. There needs to be adequate awareness creation in the general public as well.

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TAGS:Supreme CourtCongressBJPModi govtBJDElectoral bondsElection commission of India
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