National

BJP wanted electoral bonds without serial numbers

Representation image.

Representation image.  

The party recommended that electoral bonds should be issued without any serial number or identification marks.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had pitched for greater anonymity for donors of electoral bonds, according to a letter sent by party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in August 2017 when the scheme was being drafted. This letter was obtained by activist Lokesh Batra through a Right to Information application.

The party recommended that electoral bonds should be issued without any serial number or identification marks so that they cannot be used to identify donors. The final scheme did include serial numbers on the bonds, as demanded by the State Bank of India which issues the bonds. The SBI does not share the number with anyone, including the government or bond users, and the number cannot be used to track the donation or the buyer, according to the Finance Ministry.

The BJP also wanted a 60-90 day window for encashing the bonds and an assurance that political parties should not be held responsible for ensuring that the donor is not a foreign source. The final version of the scheme implemented the Reserve Bank of India’s recommendation for a 15-day encashment window.

 

Mr. Yadav’s letter was dated August 17, 2017, just days before the draft scheme was presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It offered detailed suggestions and demonstrated some knowledge of the draft structure of the scheme.

“While it has been assured that banks issuing the Electoral Bonds will not disclose the identity of the contributors, we would recommend that the Electoral Bonds should be issued without any serial number or identification marks that can be used later on, to identify the contributor,” said Mr. Yadav, noting that “many companies have been unable to join the political funding process because of the fear of disclosure of their identities” and the fear of “facing reprisals” as a result of which “many political parties were deprived of clean money.”

The letter added that there should be a designated bank account in each State, where bonds can be encashed within 60-90 days of issuance. Participation in the scheme is restricted to Indian citizens and corporations registered in India. “Political party should not be responsible to ensure that the donor is not a foreign source, since, we will not have the identity of the donor. This responsibility of checking foreign source should be on the Bank issuing the Bonds,” said Mr. Yadav.

 

Incidentally, no other political party offered such detailed suggestions on the scheme. As The Hindu has previously reported on the basis of documents obtained through RTI by activist Anjali Bhardwaj, a proposal to make the draft scheme available for comment by parties and the public was scrapped after the scheme was presented to Prime Minister Modi.

Having announced his intention to issue electoral bonds in an effort to “bring about greater transparency and accountability in political funding” during his February 1, 2017 budget speech, Mr. Jaitley had written to all State and national political parties on May 2, 2017 asking for suggestions on the scheme. Only four parties responded – the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and the Communist Party of India – with most of them asking for a draft of the proposed scheme so they could offer detailed comments.

Through June 2017 as the scheme went through early drafts, the Budget Division of the Finance Ministry repeatedly asked for directions on whether the draft scheme should be sent to all political parties for comments. On August 14, 2017, the draft was deemed ready to be presented to the Prime Minister and a meeting was requested. The letter from BJP general secretary Mr. Yadav was sent on August 17. After the meeting with Mr. Modi was held on August 21, the Finance Ministry scrapped the proposal for consultation with all parties and the public.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 6:29:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bjp-wanted-electoral-bonds-without-serial-numbers/article30079499.ece

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