With the electoral bonds mechanism facing criticism, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday argued that it was a “substantial improvement in transparency” over the present system, but the government would “consider all suggestions to further strengthen the cleansing of political funding in India.”
Pointing out that most donors were “reluctant to disclose the quantum of donations given to political parties” fearing “consequences visiting them from political opponents” in the current system, Jaitley, in a Facebook post, said the BJP-led government wanted to carry forward the process of electoral reforms and “widen” the existing system so that “donations of clean money could be made to political parties in several ways”.
Jaitley said the conventional practice of funding the political system was to take donations as well as undertake expenditures in cash. “The sources are anonymous or pseudonymous. The quantum of money was never disclosed and the system ensures unclean money coming from unidentifiable sources,” he said. “It is a wholly non-transparent 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.
Last week, Jaitley had outlined the contours of the electoral bonds, which will be sold by SBI and will have a tenure of just 15 days. The bonds are being pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties. “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 cheque, online transaction or through electoral bonds,” said Jaitley in his Facebook post.
The minister said while all three methods involve clean money, the first two are totally transparent and the electoral bonds scheme is “a substantial improvement in transparency over the present system of non- transparency”. Jaitley said the government was willing to consider all suggestions to improve the mechanism. “The government is willing to consider all suggestions to further strengthen the cleansing of political funding in India,” he said, adding, “It has to be borne in mind that impractical suggestions will not improve the cash denominated system. They would only consolidate it.”
Pointing out that the country is facing elections every year but has not been able to evolve a transparent funding system, Jaitley said: “The round-the-year functioning of the political parties involves a large expenditure… These expenditures run into hundreds of crores. Yet there has not been a transparent funding mechanism of the political system.”