AIR spotlight summary on “Electoral Bond”.
- Funding of political parties has always been on suspicion or controversy. The government has come out with Electoral Bonds for funding of political parties. The government unveiled the fine print of the electoral bonds scheme.
- As per the notification, the electoral bonds will be a bearer instrument in the manner of a promissory note whereby a citizen, or a registered body, in India is eligible to purchase the bond from notified branches of the State Bank of Indi (SBI) for 10 days each in months of January, April, July and October. It will be available in multiples of Rs1,000, Rs10,000, Rs1 lakh, Rs10 lakh and Rs1 crore.
- The significant aspect of this scheme is that the bonds will remain valid for 15 days and shall not carry the donor’s name, although the payee will have to fulfil KYC (know your customer) protocols at the bank.
- To benefit from the electoral bonds scheme, the political parties must have been registered with the Election Commission and should have secured not less than 1 per cent of the votes polled in the most recent General Election to the Lok Sabha or a State legislative assembly. This can be seen as a measure for pushing out the non serious candidates.
- Also, the bonds can be encashed by an eligible political party only through a designated bank account with an authorised bank. Every political party has to submit details of one designated account to the Election Commission and the bonds can be encashed only in that account.
- It is good step in so far as moving away from dubious cash given to political parties to moving to electoral bonds. The returns will have to be filed by the political parties through these bonds and therefore it is meant to be transparent, accountable and a small step towards electoral reforms.
- The first three parliamentary elections were held free and fair without any questions being raised, whereas from 4th elections doubts were raised about booth capturing, use of muscle and money power increasing in the election system. Now the magnitude and scale is humongous. These problems have to be addressed. There are number of reports on it, but very little action has been taken. The electoral bonds are a move taken by the government which is a small step in the right direction.
- Many electoral reforms have taken place over the decades like today the candidates have to declare their assets, reducing the age of voting to 18 which is a revolutionary step as the youngsters are increasingly determining the outcome of elections. So even if there are pros and cons in the electoral bonds, it is a step in the right direction. Anything that makes the system more transparent, accountable, open, democratic in spirit must be welcomed and later any issues and problems arising out of it must be addressed.
Issues / Concerns
- The opposition have pointed that the bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
- Any potential donor, corporate houses or industrialists do not have to worry about donating to the party in power, but will have to worry about donating to party in opposition. Any party in power wants to know the donors for opposition and they may face some trouble.
- Our democratic values is not as strong as it should have been 7 decades after Independence and this is where we need to strengthen the democratic institutions. In US we see people openly accepting their support for Democratic and Republicanparties whereas in India we even go wrong in Exit polls because people feel that if they openly accept to which party they voted, then action may be taken against them by the political parties.
Scrutinising the expenditure of political parties
- There is nothing much said about how the political parties spend. There is a huge gap between the ceiling and the money actually spent. The ceiling for a larger lok sabha constituency is 40 lakhs where as there are constituencies which spend around 40 crores and there are hardly any constituency which spends 40 lakhs. So there has to be realistic picture. There are many reports like Dinesh Goswami committee and Law Commission reports on political funding, but there isn’t any political will.
Need of the Hour
- There should be awareness, consciousness and educating the electorate by the political parties. The glass is half filled and half empty. We have very precious things in the parliamentary democracy but we also have a very long way to go.
- The question of farmer distress, joblessness was raised in recent state elections and these will be the issues in the next parliamentary elections. So we need to have a solid debate on these issues on television by the political parties.