From Arun Jaitley to Opposition: An invitation to present ideas on transparent political funding
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday threw an “open invitation” to the Opposition in the Lok Sabha for suggestions to make electoral funding cleaner and transparent.
Jaitley said the Opposition, which is against the provisions of the electoral bond-related provisions of the finance bill, has not come out with a “single suggestion” to deal with the issue.
“I am only hearing adjectives like it must be clean, it must be transparent. Please give me ideal combination of the two. We are willing to consider it. I will wait for a specific suggestion,” he said, replying to a debate on amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha to the finance bill 2017. These were later rejected by the Lower House.
“I have an open invitation to all, please suggest to me a better system which will ensure clean money and transparency to the extent possible.”
But the Opposition accused the government of running roughshod by opening doors for “political extortionism” and passing “draconian” provisions in the finance bill.
Among the amendments approved by the Rajya Sabha and rejected by the Lok Sabha was a provision for a company to disclose the name of the political parties that received its contributions.
For its part, the Congress called for an all-party meeting on electoral reforms by forming a committee. It also demanded a political funding bill be brought and debated extensively in Parliament.
“...The time has come for cleaner and transparent political funding and for all these measures to be discussed, debated, analysed and then crystallised in the form of transparent political funding bill that is brought in, debated and voted on in both Houses of Parliament, subject to scrutiny by the appropriate standing committee,” Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda said.
“With the amendment finance minister Arun Jaitley has brought in, the limits on corporate funding and corporate donations have been removed.
“With the new introduction of the electoral bonds where donations can be made through cheques, corporates can also buy these electoral bonds in designated banks and give those bonds anonymously to political parties,” he said.
In the Lok Sabha, Jaitley pointed out that at present, political parties collect most of the funding in cash. “This is tax evaded money and there is no transparency.”
Reasoning why the new concept of political funding through electoral bonds was made part of the budget and the finance bill, Jaitley said in 2001 and again in 2010, electoral reforms were part of the finance bill.
The purchaser of electoral bond has to use cheques to pay, and the party that receives it has to deposit it in a notified bank account. Only the bank knows who has bought the bonds and the donor knows who he or she has gifted them to, he said.
“So this system will ensure clean money. I concede it is only partly transparent. But those who want full transparency have the cheque option (of receiving political donations). But that full transparency and clean money option is a tried, tested and failed system. It has not worked in this country,” he said.