Amid the ongoing debate about the transparency of electoral bonds, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said the scheme was aimed at cleaning political funding and curbing the use of black money as was sought to be achieved through electoral trusts proposed during the UPA-II regime.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the scheme on April 10.
In his blog titled ‘The Choice of Political Funding – Cheque, Electoral Bonds or Blackmoney from Contractors and middlemen’, Jaitley said, “Electoral Bonds are all tax paid and declared money. Parties declare how many bonds they got. The donors declare the bonds they bought – all white money and better transparency.”
The Union minister also cited a report that said Rs 1,500 crore had been seized as a result of initiatives taken by the Election Commission and revenue authorities. He added that not using electoral bonds would only give donors a free hand to donate by cash after syphoning monies from their businesses.
While referring to raids conducted by the Income Tax Department earlier in the day across various locations, Jaitley said, “The recent Election Commission and IT raids have shown that it is taxpayers/government’s money, which, through PWD and other Departments of the Government, is being syphoned out and round-tripping into politics.”
“Is that a better option or the reformed system of all white money and improved, if not perfect transparency? NGOs and commentators must look beyond their nose,” he added.
Searches were conducted across at least 50 locations in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh against people linked to MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath, officials said. The raids were linked to suspected movement of hawala money during the ongoing poll season and tax evasion, officials said.
Last year, the government had brought in the electoral bond scheme as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of its efforts to bring transparency in political funding. Under the scheme, the name of the donor is known only to banks.
Jaitley said both the electoral trusts, proposed by the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2010 and electoral bonds assured total white money and improved transparency but masked the identity of the link between the donor and the party. “This obviously has been done to encourage donors to donate white money without fear of consequences,” he said.
He also wondered why there was opposition to electoral bonds and not the “electoral trusts” scheme. “Surprisingly the attack is against the bonds and not the electoral trusts because the earlier was brought by the NDA and the latter was by UPA. The underlying principle of both is the same,” he said.
The minister also said that in the past few days the Election Commission and the revenue authorities, both separately and acting jointly, have intensified their crackdown on the use of black money in elections.
“These actions have been particularly significant in States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, North-East and Madhya Pradesh. The Election Commission and the Income-tax authorities work in close tandem during elections. In many cases, monies have been coming from Government contractors and beneficiaries,” Jaitley said.
Earlier this week, the minister had said the debate on electoral bonds was “ill-informed” and that the bonds were a step ahead from the earlier measures of using cheques and electoral trusts for political funding.