Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Piyush Goyal on Thursday said electoral bonds “brought in honest money” in politics. The minister made the remark hours after the Congress protested in the Lok Sabha, saying that through the issuance of electoral bonds, the government had made corruption “official”.

A report in HuffPost India on Monday had revealed that the Centre had ignored the Reserve Bank of India’s suggestion not to launch electoral bonds, which allow political parties to receive funds anonymously. Consequently, the Congress had claimed that electoral bonds had become instruments of anonymous political funding “bordering on opaque money laundering”.

Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from the State Bank of India and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. These bonds are anonymous. The scheme was notified in January 2018.

“The Election Commission has seized crores of rupees from Congress leaders,” Goyal said during a press conference at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. “They have been corrupt and have used black money extensively. BJP remains the only party to fight against the problem of black money.”

Goyal claimed the critics were an “alliance of the defeated and dejected corrupt politicians who do not want clean, tax-paid transparent money to fund elections”. This was the same “lobby” that had made false allegations in the Rafale deal, adding that the “Supreme Court, too quashed their false claims”.

Last week, the top court dismissed a review petition of its December 2018 judgement upholding the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by the government. The petitioners had alleged that the government concealed crucial facts in the case and misled the top court into giving a favourable verdict in December 2018. In May this year, after hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement.

On electoral bonds, Goyal said the Narendra Modi-led government had ensured that the money used in elections must come from the bank, “through the KYC [Know Your Customer] procedures, and can be issued by selected State Bank of India branches so that the SBI can keep its track”.

“The Government of India has been in constant discussion with the Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission,” he said. “Thus, after bringing the Finance Bill in Parliament on Feb 1, 2017, this scheme was notified on January, 2, 2018.”

The minister claimed “built-in security features” were added to make sure forgery does not occur. “There’s a random serial number, invisible to the naked eye in the bond to ensure there’s no harassment of any individual or party,” Goyal said.

Earlier, contributions worth Rs 20,000 were allowed in cash, but it was brought down to Rs 2,000 so that the poor would also be able to “help political parties with cash”, the minister added.

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