Former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on Saturday said the electoral bond scheme introduced by Union Finance Minister in 2017 Budget has turned out to be a “damp squib and a huge disappointment”, reported The Hindu. Chawla said the scheme has failed to address the matter of black money paid to political parties.
Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from a bank and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money.
Chawla, who was the 16th Chief Election Commissioner and oversaw the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, was speaking at the release of his book Every Vote Counts: The Story of India’s Elections at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Chawla said electoral bonds were a “method of camouflage”. “There is a sea of black money [for political parties] irrespective of demonetisation and irrespective of which party is in power,” he added. “Making cash contributions of less than Rs 20,000 in multiples was not accounted for, while the Election Commission was making the recommendation to change the law for 22 years without any result.”
The former chief election commissioner said several candidates exceed the statutory limit of Rs 70 lakh for parliamentary election expenses. “Our Parliament consists of extremely rich people,” PTI quoted him as saying. “Many of them are industrialists and businessmen. They find themselves on parliamentary committees, exactly those places where there is conflict of interest. Are those people in the Parliament representing the voice of the people?”
In a purported reference to businessman Vijay Mallya, Chawla said a “current fugitive” was on the civil aviation ministry’s parliamentary committee. “The supposed rationale was that the man had domain expertise,” he said. “We are on the way to becoming a rich and powerful Parliament, but one should ask if this is the voice of the people?”
Asked about the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines, Chawla said: “Take my word for gospel, the EVM can’t be hacked.” The former election official said several High Court have heard cases against the use of the machines. “Until the Supreme Court takes a final view on this, we must keep our faith in them,” he added. “The same machines have given different results in different polls.”