Why is Supreme Court is totally silent in coming out with its order on the legality of the controversial electoral bond scheme for more than three months? After a number of hearings, the Supreme Court concluded the same on November 2, 2023. Now more than three months have passed but there is no sign from the office of the Registrar that the verdict is being given soon.
Whatever be the order, approving the bonds or nullifying the order is crucial for the political parties at the present moment as the country is heading for general elections in April/ May this year and the ruling party BJP is taking full advantage of the Supreme Court delay in enriching itself with more than 80 per cent of the amount of the electoral bonds which have been issued so far.
Electoral bonds worth more than Rs 570 crores have been sold in the latest phase of the electoral bond sale that lasted from January 2 to January 11, 2024. This was the second batch of electoral bonds sold since the Supreme Court began hearings for the four petitions challenging the legality of the electoral bond scheme announced by the Narendra Modi government in 2018. So far, 30 tranches have been sold and the biggest beneficiary has been the BJP which is the ruling party. Since the corporates are the main buyers of the bonds, they donate to the BJP mostly to carry favour with the ruling regime.
The original electoral bonds scheme 2017 was challenged in the Supreme Court by many petitioners since its implementation beginning 2018 but only in April last year, the CJI Dr. D Y Chandrachud indicated that he would decide about the setting up of a five member Constitution bench to hear the petitions. After that, hearings were concluded on November 2 last year.
In the case of the 25th tranche of the electoral bonds, the Narendra Modi government violated propriety by amending in a hurry the rules of the electoral bonds scheme on November7 2022 to allow the sale for extra fifteen days during the year when the elections were due in states and union territories.
As per the rules, the bonds are available for purchase for a period of 10 days in the months of January, April, July and October. An additional 30 days window is allowed in the years of general elections. And now through the latest amendment, the centre allowed another tranche in November 2022 before the assembly polls in Himachal and Gujarat last year.
In the last six years since the electoral bonds sale started in January 2018, the BJP has spent thousands of crores of rupees in destabilising state governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and bought MLAs to form governments in Goa and Manipur. In Maharashtra, it was clear as daylight that huge funds – were mobilised to ensure the defection of the Eknath Shinde group from the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray in July 2022. The BJP tried to encourage defections in Jharkhand assembly before the recent floor test, but it failed.
The funding from the bonds or the poll trusts is all one way to BJP as the companies who donate do not want to antagonise the ruling party at the Centre and invite action through IT Dept, the CBI or the ED. It was apparent when the Bajaj family scion Rajeev Bajaj was apprehensive of attacks by the central agencies after his interaction with Rahul Gandhi last in 2022.
This fear among the Indian corporates is so overwhelming that even the young scions of the industrial families who are forward looking and do not like the BJP, keep silent as they are not ready to risk the future of their companies just for the sake of some liberal personal thinking.
The net result is that there is no level playing field in the elections. The BJP is in a position to spend more than ten times money compared to the Opposition parties. It has a huge war chest to engineer defections when that is needed. And now, the party will be spending huge amount for the Lok Sabha elections. Another tranche will be due in the first week of April and as per rules, the sale can be open for more than a month since it is on the eve of general elections. That will give the BJP another chance to garner huge amount for its coffers to spend in the Lok Sabha elections.
In the last ten years of Narendra Modi rule, there has been an unusual concentration of wealth in the Indian corporate sector. A recent study suggests that India’s twenty most profitable firms generated 14 per cent of the total corporate profits in 1990, 30 per cent in 2010 and 70 per cent in 2019.
This means that there was a steep jump in the concentration of wealth in a few corporate houses just during the first five years of Narendra Modi’s rule. This process has got further accentuated in the last five years. This has been a result of friendly collaboration between the ruling party BJP and the big industrialists who have been benefited during the present rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The INDIA constituents have to focus on this quid pro quo between the Indian crony capitalists and the Narendra Modi regime and demand a probe into how the big corporates are funding the ruling party BJP as a part of their long-term arrangement. Their legal experts must press on early order since it is already reserved for a long period. This is imperative for the sustenance of the democracy in the country by establishing some sort of level playing field between the contesting parties. (IPA Service)