• Associate Sponsor

From retrograde step to step in right direction: Election Commission shifts stand on poll bonds

In an interview to The Indian Express last year, Joti’s predecessor, Nasim Zaidi, had said that the Commission feels electoral bonds will “impact transparency (in poll funding) negatively”.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: January 19, 2018 7:46 am
Election Commission, EC on electoral bonds, electoral bonds, poll funding, Political funding, CEC A K Joti, Nasim Zaidi, India news, indian express The upcoming state elections in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland are the first to be held after the electoral bond scheme was notified by the government this month. (Express photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

Indicating a clear change in its stance, months after the Election Commission (EC) expressed reservations about electoral bonds, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A K Joti on Thursday described the scheme “as one step towards the right direction.”

In an interview to The Indian Express last year, Joti’s predecessor, Nasim Zaidi, had said that the Commission feels electoral bonds will “impact transparency (in poll funding) negatively”.

That apart, the EC, in its submission to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in May 2017 — when Joti was one of the Commissioners — had objected to the amendments in the Representation of the People (RP) Act which exempt political parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.

It had described the move as a “retrograde step”. In a letter written to the Law Ministry the same month, the Commission had even asked the government to “reconsider” and “modify” the above amendment.
Joti became CEC in July last year.

Explained | Electoral Bonds: How they’ll work, how ‘transparent’ they’ll really be

Asked what had changed, he said: “Nothing has changed, what I am saying is that now there will be digital and banking trail of donations. That is one step towards the right direction. I have not said that it will solve all problems. The notification has taken place only few days back. So let it be rolled out and then we can get good feedback (on its impact).”

The upcoming state elections in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland are the first to be held after the electoral bond scheme was notified by the government this month. These are interest-free bearer instruments (like Promissory Notes) that will be available for purchase from the State Bank of India within a designated window of 10 days in every quarter of the financial year.

Also read | Assembly elections 2018: In 3 Northeast states, a struggling Congress, an optimistic BJP

At the time of its announcement, in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget speech last year, electoral bonds were understood to be a way for companies to make anonymous donations. However, the fine print of the notification has revealed that even individuals, groups of individuals, NGOs, religious and other trusts are permitted to donate via electoral bonds without disclosing their details.

This means voters will not know which individual, company, or organisation has funded which party, and to what extent. Before the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to disclose details of all donors who have donated more than Rs 20,000.

The Finance Minister has defended the scheme on the ground that it will encourage political donations of “clean money” and “some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received”.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. R
    R Pandya
    Jan 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm
    Critics of poll bonds specially political parties should suggest better options than only criticising the Poll Bonds. Stopping black money flows to political parties or stopping political parties from using unaccounted money is the aim. Every body including media should contribute in reforming present corrupt system.
    (0)(1)
    Reply
    1. S Suchindranath Aiyer
      Jan 19, 2018 at 11:38 am
      BJP is Khangress in saffron clothing. Electoral bonds is a round about way of continuing what always was: Funding the criminal and corrupt electoral system, gerry mandered by caste, tribe and community, established since 1947.
      (2)(0)
      Reply
      1. blackpower 666
        Jan 19, 2018 at 10:57 am
        FAKENDRANATH's capacity for corruption is infinite and this is yet another fake feather on his corrupt cap
        (1)(0)
        Reply
        1. Truth Truth
          Jan 19, 2018 at 9:28 am
          What do you expect from the Thugs of Gujarat------Feku, Fatty, Joti, Urjit, Ambani, Adani -------Each scratching the back of the other ???
          (20)(1)
          Reply
          1. Atul Gurtu
            Jan 19, 2018 at 8:58 am
            Two points: 1) It's the voters who must know which person or corporate en y has contributed how much to a political party, so that the later quid pro quo can be judged and 2) with SBI being a nationalized bank, it's pretty certain that the government of the day will come to know which person or corporate has contributed to which opposition party, leading to a reluctance of big donors to contribute to opposition parties, as they would be penalized if the incumbent government again wins. Thus, it's a decidedly partisan scheme designed to favor the government of the day.
            (38)(0)
            Reply
            1. Load More Comments