Will Narendra Modi’s electoral bond scheme make political financing more transparent?: India, News


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    Experts question the anonymity factor

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    Cash donations still an option

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    Bonds to be deterrant for donors wishing to fund govt critics: Anand Sharma

The Narendra Modi government will roll out a flagship electoral bond scheme on Monday, in an effort to make political funding more transparent.

These bonds will be available at designated banks in the first 10 days of every quarter. Donors can use these interest-free bearer bonds to fund a party of their choice, in demoninations of Rs 1,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore. Individual donors, companies and NGOs will need to fill in KYC details while buying bonds, but this information is confidential. It won’t be disclosed to parties.

Parties have fifteen days (from the day of purchase) to encash bonds through their verified accounts. A 7.5 per cent cap on companies’ donations to political parties won’t be applicable to electoral bonds.

The Modi administration has hailed the scheme as “historic,” but will these bonds actually serve the purpose they’re meant to serve: increasing transparency?

To begin with, experts have raised questions about the anonymity factor.

“When (an) anonymous person gives (a) donation to (a) political party, the…party will take the donation but will not reveal the name of the person in the balance sheet, so there’s anonymity on both side(s)…how can that be termed as increasing transparency?” asked Jagdeep Chokar, founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms.

Meanwhile, Opposition parties are crying foul, and allege that electoral bonds will discourage donors from funding them. For example, Congress leader Anand Sharma pointed out that KYC details could give away identities, and this could deter anyone supporting government critics.

“Electoral bonds will be a deterrent for donors to fund critics of government…as SBI needs to share KYC details with RBI, and (the) government could easily find out who is funding whom,” he said.

The BJP, on its part, says it’s only natural for the Congress to oppose any measure that will eliminate corruption.

“Does Congress want slush funds instead in the electoral process?,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao asked.

It’s unclear how the government will achieve transparency, or eliminate black money, when it has neither put a stop to cash donations nor routed funding through digital payments. Critics claim that the electoral bonds scheme is much ado about nothing. Will they be proved right?

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