Electoral bonds will be back after consultations: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Electoral bonds will be back after consultations: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Apr 20, 2024 04:40 AM IST

BJP plans to reintroduce electoral bonds if re-elected in 2024, aiming for transparency. Nirmala Sitharaman criticizes Opposition, advocates economic stability.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to bring back electoral bonds in some form after wide consultations will all stakeholders if it is elected back to power in the 2024 general elections, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, reposing her faith in the controversial political funding scheme that was scrapped by the Supreme Court in February but admitting that some changes were necessary.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (ANI)
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (ANI)

In an interview to R Sukumar and Sunetra Choudhury, Sitharaman said the state of the economy was very relevant to the 2024 elections, took credit for keeping inflation under check, hit out at the Opposition over corruption and for fanning the north-south divide, and held out a prescription to maintain economic stability. She also spoke about how 370 seats was a real target for the BJP in these polls, and why she believed the Dravidian parties misled the people of southern India.

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“We still have to do a lot of consultation with stakeholders and see what is it that we have to do to make or bring in a framework which will be acceptable to all, primarily retain the level of transparency and completely remove the possibility of black money entering into this,” she said, adding that it was yet to be decided if the Union government will seek a review of the top court’s order.

“What the current scheme which has been just thrown out by the Supreme Court brought in was transparency. What prevailed earlier was just free-for-all.”

Read Here | Amit Shah's challenge to Rahul Gandhi on electoral bonds: ‘Accept you extorted as well’

Introduced in 2018, electoral bonds were available for purchase at any State Bank of India branch. Donations made under this scheme by corporate and even foreign entities through Indian subsidiaries enjoyed 100% tax exemption while identities of the donors were kept confidential both by the bank as well as the recipient political parties.

On February 15, a five-judge Constitution bench struck down the scheme, declaring it “unconstitutional” because it completely anonymised contributions made to political parties, and added that restricting black money or illegal election financing – some of the articulated objectives of the scheme – did not justify violating voters’ right to information in a disproportionate manner.

Sitharaman acknowledged that some aspects of the scheme needed improvement – for example, data made public by the Election Commission of India and State Bank of India suggested shell companies and loss-making companies contributed to parties – but added that they could be brought back in some form after “a good consultation”.

She hit out at the Opposition for alleging that the BJP ignored criminal charges of leaders who are defecting from other parties to the ruling party.

Read Here: Those criticising electoral bonds will soon regret, says PM Modi

“The BJP can’t sit here and say, you come to my party today, and the case will be closed tomorrow. The case has to go through the courts that have to take a call; they will not just say, “Oh, he’s come to your party, close the case.” Doesn’t happen that way. So is this washing machine a term they want to use for the courts?”

She also laid out a road map for the economy to keep its growth momentum. “Stability in policymaking. Simplification of the process of taxation. GST rate rationalisation. Making it easy for investments to come through into the country. And when I say that, it’s not just from the central government. It has to be state governments, it has to be local bodies bringing in compliances which are simpler at the local body level. I would think these are larger issues.”

When asked about the intense BJP campaign in Tamil Nadu, where no national party has had a significant presence since the late 1960s, Sitharaman said the state had a clear distinction – local regional parties for assembly and a national party for Parliament – but the Congress ceded ground to Dravdian parties.

“Everything that happens from Delhi, the good work for Tamil Nadu that can benefit Tamil Nadu -- there weren’t enough articulations of these in the state They left it to the regional party.”

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