Bond BaJaPa Bharat!

Electoral bonds are the latest entrant into the noisy news cycle in India after names of people/entities who purchased these bonds started coming out following a Supreme Court diktat to the State Bank of India. This subject has been in active discussion ever since the Court deemed the electoral bond scheme to be unconstitutional and mandated it to be withdrawn with immediate effect. In further directives, it has been asking for data on the purchasers of bonds to be made public which the SBI and the Election Commission finally complied after initial dithering.

For all those who have been waiting for a potent stick to beat Narendra Modi for a long while, the apex court’s verdict and the subsequent strictures have come as a nuclear warhead or so they believe. Predictably, there have been rants and outpours from the liberal intelligentsia against Modi Sarkar for having run a corruption racket in the name of electoral bonds. Among the liberal commentariat, I find two types of people – those who are perennially anti-establishment and those who are perennially anti–Modi. Since for the last 10 years, Modi Sarkar has been the establishment, both these two groups have sort of merged and are now working in tandem, performing as one homogenous group.

No other group has been more hypocritical and intellectually dishonest than the liberal intelligentsia in this country. The members of this cohort have been opposing tooth and nail any idea just because it came out of Modi Sarkar.  Instead of evaluating the idea on its merit and nuancing their arguments with what’s good and bad, they have been going all out to rubbish them completely. There are many examples for this but we will keep that for another blog. In my opinion, the idea of electoral bonds is the latest in this list to meet with the same response. The concept of electoral bonds was introduced by the Modi Government and so it should be opposed seems to be the only underlying agenda.

Back in 2017, when the idea of electoral bonds was introduced in the Union Budget, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley took pains to explain the rationale and logic behind the same.  The fact is and this argument has been articulated by many – before electoral bonds, political parties were primarily funded by individuals and organisations in cash as they could accept cash donations of less than Rs 20K without any trail. Some big corporates like the Tatas made contributions through official channels with disclosures. I don’t remember anyone bringing up the topic of quid pro quo then as Modi Sarkar wasn’t the beneficiary. This government could have just continued as it is without doing anything. After all, the practice of cash usage in elections and political funding has been going on for so many years.

I have observed that the liberal intelligentsia in India likes status quo and adores status quoists. History is witness to it. But this government wanted to bring a change in political funding and among various options, they thought of “anonymous” electoral bonds as the best solution as a first step. Personally, I thought that it was a much-needed reform in electoral funding as it brings money through proper official and banking channels.

The idea of keeping it anonymous was contentious and I agree that this is a problem. The public at large should know who is donating to which party and how much, for them to make opinions in their mind before voting. But the idea of keeping it anonymous was articulated as being the first step till parties get more mature and shun any vindictiveness towards donors who shun them.  Yet, the liberal commentators as is their habit, argued against the concept of electoral bonds completely and their arguments centred around a few broad themes ignoring the positives:

First, is the obvious peeve that Modi’s party – the BJP was cornering a big chunk of the contributions.  Even those who make this argument know very well that it is such a weak argument. Figures of bonds going to different parties are there to see and it is very clear that parties who are in power or who have the potential to expand their base have a higher propensity to attract more money. This is true for any country and any party and the situation we have in India where BJP encashed around 47% of the total bonds is a no-brainer.

Second, is the issue of quid pro quo. As of now, even with all the data available, there is no way one could establish any quid pro quo beyond doubt. At best, there could be just logical derivations or conjectures. These unguided missiles of possible quid pro quo allegations being aimed at the BJP can land at the doorstep of Congress and the other regional parties as well.

Third, is the issue of transparency. As I mentioned before, being anonymous was the single largest fallacy of this scheme. But then as former Finance Secretary Subash Chandra Garg who was among those who were part of the conception team for electoral bonds says, keeping it “anonymous” was central to the scheme without which the idea would not have taken off at all. This was considered better than what it was and not being the best. And it was very clear that this was taken as a first step towards cleaning up electoral financing.

Fourth, is the allegation that it is Modi Sarkar’s biggest scam.  The SC scrapped the scheme not because it was a scam or because it promoted corruption. It was scrapped because it was unconstitutional due to the lack of transparency.

Now with the apex court squashing the whole idea, we are back to square one. In this situation, I don’t think the ruling party with its strength and muscle would suffer for finances for the forthcoming general elections so much as the Congress or the regional parties. If you notice, much of the glee in SC’s decision is coming from the commentariat rather than the opposition parties because they know very well that they have been hit on their tummies by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in its wisdom instead of squashing the idea completely could have directed the government to remove the anonymity clause and continued with the scheme. This could have ensured that the good aspects of the scheme could have been retained while the most contentious issue of anonymity and lack of transparency that made the scheme “unconstitutional” were repealed. In the battle for “Idealism” and “pragmatism” the Court has ruled in favour of the former.  In this election season for Bharat, will these “Bonds” become the “Bofors” for BaJaPa? Notwithstanding the Supreme Court verdict, the jury is out on that!

Image source: Times of India

0 thoughts on “Bond BaJaPa Bharat!”

  1. Nice one RSA.This is not right time for BJP to bring this issue as anonymous. Now all mouths started talking about this and is negative for BJP in current election scenario

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