Jailed Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday called electoral bonds the “biggest scam of the decade”. He added that although the scheme allows the donor to be anonymous, it is the people of the country who are left in the dark.
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. A report in HuffPost India earlier this week 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.
“Electoral bonds are the biggest scam of the decade,” Chidambaram, in a tweet posted by his family on his behalf, said. “Purchasers will be known to the bank and, therefore, to the government. Donor will be known to the party [BJP] to which he donated.” Chidambaram is presently lodged in Tihar jail in connection with the INX Media case.
The Congress and other Opposition parties in Parliament have been protesting against electoral bonds for the last few days. 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 on Friday. The MPs held placards and raised slogans asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence on the matter.
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 had said. “RTI in 2018 revealed that government overruled Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds.”
However, the BJP hit back. Union minister Piyush Goyal 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”.