By Gyan Pathak
A scheme that overtly or covertly benefits a particular group is partial, and hence for impartiality’s sake it must be struck down. Sale of electoral bond in India falls in this category, since it benefits the party that made it. However, despite concerns expressed by the Election Commission of India of its misuse and many petitions challenging in Supreme Court remaining pending Modi government went ahead with its sale from October 1 to October 10, 2021. Political parties in, opposition have also opposed the scheme since they have been at receiving ends, but who cares.
It is the 18th phase of electoral bonds sale since it was notified on January 2, 2018, and has been resorted to this time by the Ministry of Finance ahead of the assembly elections due in five states early next year. Since over the years the scheme tremendously benefited the ruling BJP enabling them to vanquish the opposition by providing unprecedented financial muscle, no one can avoid it noticing. It’s simply injustice, and against the free and fair election in a democracy, because it provides a favourable pitch for the ruling BJP. There is no level playing field now on account of financial power with some. It is undemocratic to make elections to be fought on unequal footing and tilting the balance in someone’s favour.
Election Commission of India has always been telling the country that they are conduction ‘free and fair’ elections. They have in 2017 raised serious concerns regarding the Electoral Bonds, but they were never heard. Modi government went ahead to implement it and the Election Commission is compelled to conduct elections on this newly created “unequal footing” that favours the BJP, which is ‘neither free nor fair’ on account of the financial inequality.
Even the Supreme Court of India, that had expressed its concern about the possible misuse of the electoral bonds in March 2021, is still sitting pretty on the case. There seems to be no urgency in their view to hear the case urgently, while all the parties opposing the scheme have been demanding speedy hearing to all petitions as the 18th phase of the sale of electoral bond has been announced in the run up to the State Assembly elections. Modi government has obviously derived benefit from the Supreme Courts attitude in this matter and has announced this interest-free banking instrument, that is being undertaken at 29 specified branches of the State Bank of India in multiples of Rs 1000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore.
The allegation against the BJP is that they have devised the scheme in such a way as to benefit them more than any other political parties. It gives them financial muscle power through big corporate players to ensure them the seat of power. This allegation should be read with the efforts of the Modi government to make rules in favour of corporate, such as the four controversial labour codes, and the three farm laws bringing corporate to the farm. One can see even in the big ticket privatisation of banks, insurance sector, railways, and monetization plan for public sector undertakings also as to how the Modi government is moving. In this backdrop one cannot brush aside the allegation that Corporate and Modi governments are hand in gloves with each other. Opposition’s concerns seems to be genuine because they are receiving only a fraction of the political donation compared to BJP.
BJP’s move has been systematic since it came to power in 2014. It has always been trying to impoverish all the opposition political parties through various legal or illegal means. There had not been any election since Modi has come to power when financial resources of the opposition candidates and political parties had not been confiscated or obstructed on one or the other pretext. One needs answer from the BJP why such actions are not initiated against the BJP or its allies, especially when they have more tainted candidates than any other political parties? How it comes that tainted candidates of the BJP and their allies are not heard officially about their misusing financial resources? There is mistrust among the public even about the targeted actions against opponents.
Everybody knows that finance is used in political defections, especially before the elections or during the elections. It is therefore, the demand of the opposition for transparency is important. The country must know who is donating to which political parties and how much. This only can bring the truth out regarding all the allegations of armtwisting and favouring the donors.
It has always been alleged the Modi governments favours those who make political donation to the BJP, and make the life of others difficult who donate the opposition political parties. Though BJP claims that they are anonymous, the experience of the donors and the opposition political parties seem to contradict it. ED, CBI, and IT raids tell us different stories, and they are plausible too. Moreover the SBI knows all the donors, and from them, it is alleged, the government knows all. Donor to opposition and their ventures are then haunted or blacklisted, or at least they fear to be dealt as such in future.
All these point toward the elections which are no longer ‘free and fair’ making mockery of the elections and the democracy. There are numerous other questions, such as regarding dubious transactions through repurchases of these bonds, misuse of power to extort donations by the ruling party, victimization of the donors to opposition political parties, and so on. BJP’s share in the donations is disproportionately high, especially when we compare it to its support base with other opposition party’s support base. BJP got 76 per cent of electoral bonds up to August 2021 which were purchased in 2019-20. They don’t has this much support base among the public and therefore it is clear that moneyed people are with BJP. But then allowing money power against the people’s power is undemocratic.
The Supreme Court is showing concerns for the democratic values of the country in recent days. There have been many moves for protecting the rights of common citizens under the present chief justice n V Ramana. It is hoped that the apex court gives priority attention to the petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bonds. Any delay in decision making will only disturb the level playing field in elections making the BJP winner through its financial muscle power. (IPA Service)