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'No one knows who funds the BJP'

February 16, 2024 08:54 IST
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'Who has given how much money to which party, the people of India must know this fact.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi being garlanded by Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party President J P Nadda at the BJP's victory programme after the party won the Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan assembly elections, December 3, 2023. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

The Supreme Court of India in a path-breaking verdict on Thursday, February 15, 2024, told the State Bank of India to disclose the names of all the contributors of electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India.

Electoral bonds -- introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government -- was put in practice in January 2018 -- and allowed corporates and individuals to donate money to political parties without any limit.

A donor has to buy electoral bonds from the State Bank of India and donate funds to a political party of his/her choice.

There has been criticism from Opposition parties on electoral bonds, data with the Election Commission of India and the Association for Democratic Reforms shows that that the bulk of the funds via the bonds went one political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ spoke to Dr Jaya Thakur, general secretary, Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, one of the petitioners against the electoral bonds, on why she went to court and why she felt electoral bonds lacked transparency.

Was the judgment on expected lines for you?

I am very happy over the judgment. I wanted the electoral bonds system to be transparent and that is what has happened today after the judgment.

Electoral bonds were violating the Right to Information Act as nothing was transparent. This verdict is a big victory for Indian democracy.

When and why did you decide to go to court on this issue?

I could see that after the electoral bonds scheme came into the picture transparency in election funding was over.

People who were donating money, their names were not being disclosed and I realised at that time (2018) that this would create a problem in the future for our democracy. And this is what happened as the BJP could not be defeated anywhere in elections.

The reason being funding is a big issue for political parties to contest elections.

How did the BJP benefit from electoral bonds and how did it help them win elections?

Definitely it helped as no one knows who funds the BJP. No names were disclosed ever due to electoral bonds.

Do you mean electoral bonds was cheque book corruption?

Yes, obviously. The shell companies and loss-making companies were giving money to political parties and how were they doing it?

No one knows who owns these companies.

My guess is that corporate money and black money has gone into this funding. This gave a boost to corruption.

This electoral bond judgment is for every party. Who has given how much money to which party, the people of India must know this fact.

When they know this fact, only then their rights are protected.

In what way have electoral bonds helped the corporate world?

It helped them in a big way. Just take the privatisation of public sector companies. Why is that happening? It is happening because the government has a scheme that is directly benefiting industrialists.

And compare the condition of farmers of India. They are on the roads protesting for minimum support price for their crops.

What will happen in three weeks when names are disclosed as to who paid how much money to which party?

Lot of things will be cleared after the names are listed as to which corporate has given how much money to which party.

Once that happens it will be very evident which corporate won government contracts after donating to that political party which is in power.

Right now no one knows which party got payment from which corporate and in return which corporate got favoured government contracts.

Before the electoral bonds came into the picture there was a feeling that black money was used in politics and therefore electoral bonds were needed. Don't you feel this system is better than what we had earlier?

The Supreme Court has said a very simple line. Disclose names of corporates that are funding political parties. Let there be transparency.

If I am not mistaken only the Communist Party of India-Marxist does not take electoral bonds, all the other parties do but the names of donors, be it industrialists or anyone, are not disclosed on their Web site.
This includes your own Congress party which doesn't display this information on its Web site.

Does this not put your party too in the dock?

I don't think this judgment is against the Congress party's interest. I feel any party who gets funds from whichever corporate group, they must disclose the name of the corporate group.

After demonetisation, GST and all the raids by government agencies, an impression has gained in the public that the BJP is fighting against corruption in every nook and corner.
Do you think this judgment will change that perception?

Let me correct you. The BJP does not fight against corruption, they just speak against corruption.

The BJP said they will fight black money menace and deposit Rs 15 lakh in every Indian citizen's bank account. Did this ever happen in the last nine years? The answer is no.

The BJP only creates an image that they are fighting corruption in public. They are good at publicity and that is why they are able to create an impression in people's minds that they are a party with clean image.

They will do bad things, but due to publicity they have the potential to convert that bad image into good image. This is their strength as a party. They know how to sell.

Our household expenses that used to run to Rs 5,000 (during Congress rule) is at Rs 10,000 because of inflation which has touched a peak.

Worse expenditure under BJP rule is that of education. Educational expense has touched a peak under BJP rule. And you hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech. He talks like an Opposition leader and targets the Congress party all the time (as if we are ruling the country).

Modi never took accountability for anything in his rule.

Do you feel the Congress lost more elections in the last seven years because the BJP got more money due to electoral bonds as the Congress had less money to contest elections?

There are many reasons why elections are lost, but yes, one of the main reasons is electoral bonds.

This electoral bond is harmful for Indian public and Indian democracy as it is not transparent.

When we don't know who these electoral bonds are favouring, how will we come to know what is happening in our democracy?

It is the voters' right to know who is funding which party.

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024