Opposition leaders in the Rajya Sabha on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond to the allegations surrounding the electoral bonds scheme, PTI reported. They also accused the government of legalising corruption through the issue of the bonds.

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.

Opposition parties led by the Congress protested in Parliament premises and claimed that electoral bonds were a “threat to democracy”. However, inside the Rajya Sabha, Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu did not allow them to raise the matter.

The Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also hit out at the government, accusing that the scheme was “legalised political corruption”.

Several senior Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari, protested against the government inside Parliament House. The MPs held placards and raised slogans asking Modi to break his silence on the matter.

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A report in HuffPost India on Monday had revealed that the Centre had ignored the Reserve Bank of India’s suggestion to not launch electoral bonds, which allow political parties to receive funds anonymously.

The Congress, through its official Twitter handle, tweeted on Friday that the BJP government lied to the people of India and its democratic institutions to pass the electoral bond scheme, only so that it could amass more wealth.

On Friday, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi tweeted her questions regarding electoral bonds. “1. Is it true that the objections of RBI and Election Commission were rejected?” she asked. “2. It is written in the report that during the Karnataka elections, the prime minister allowed the sale of the bond illegally? Is it true? 3. The identity of the donor is confidential – Has the government lied?”

“Protesting the rampantly unethical electoral bonds which permit the ruling party to launder unaccounted money from unknown sources,” Tharoor tweeted. “The illegal extension of these bonds to state assembly elections on ⁦@PMOIndia⁩’s orders requires an explanation by PM.”

BJP-Congress row on electoral bonds

On Thursday, Congress MP Manish Tewari had said that through the issuance of electoral bonds, the government had made corruption “official”. “The electoral bond scheme was limited to elections,” Tewari said. “RTI in 2018 revealed that government overruled Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds.”

However, the BJP hit back. Union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said electoral bonds “brought in honest money” in politics. 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”.