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Electoral Bonds & Quid Pro Quo: What Kind of Ram Rajya Did Modi Talk About?

The people of India need to be in the forefront to salvage our Republic and our electoral democracy from the vicious grip of corporate money power.
Electoral Bonds

Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about ushering in of ‘Ram Rajya’ after the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya following the Supreme Court (SC) judgement allowing construction of that temple in the place where the Babri Mosque stood. It was demolished in 1992 (by Hindutva outfits). That act of the mosque’s demolition was held by the SC as an “egregious violation of rule of law”.

Now, in the ‘Ram Rajya’ conjured up by Modi, the SC has found the electoral bond scheme, an opaque process of corporate donations to political parties, as unconstitutional and a violation of voters’ fundamental right to know the amount of funds political parties were receiving from corporates and other sources.  

Details of Electoral Bonds are Disturbing 

The information available in the Election Commission’s website on the details of the companies purchasing electoral bonds for donating to political parties, reveals a murkier dimension of politics and the electoral process, never ever seen in the history of our Republic.

A company, the Future of Gaming and Hotel Services, with a few hundred crores of profit and facing coercive action from different Central agencies under the Modi regime, purchased electoral bonds worth ₹1,368 crore, the largest amount by a single entity. The assets that company had and the staggering amount it spent for purchasing those bonds clearly proves the point flagged by SC that there was ‘quid pro quo’ involved in establishing the nexus between corporates and political regimes through electoral bonds.

Another company, Megha Engineering, purchased electoral bonds worth ₹1,200 crore and has been praised by Union Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari for its role. The electoral bonds that this company purchased, followed by ED (Enforcement Directorate) raids, suggest an ominous pressure that such raids might have exerted on the company.

The income-tax department raided Megha Engineering in October 2019, and the massive amount that it spent on buying electoral bonds later, and the number of projects it bagged from the political regime at the Centre and the BRS (Bharat Rashtra Samithi) regime in Telangana, has raised eyebrows. Fingers are being pointed at the “neutrality” of those regimes.

It has been reported that several companies bought electoral bonds up to 10 and even 100 times the profits they generated. And those companies were certainly paying through their nose or maybe some other companies were using them as a proxy to donate to political parties. Such sordid details bring out the obnoxious collusion of money power that is shaping politics in India after electoral bonds were introduced in 2018. 

Electoral Bonds Introduced in Spite of Criticism

When electoral bonds were being placed in the framework of law by taking the money bill route, it was opposed by the Election Commission, the Reserve Bank of India and some officials of the Finance Ministry. So, a legislation which was framed without factoring in, rather disregarding, the views of major institutions, was passed in the Lok Sabha by the Modi regime using brute majority. This was done without following the law-making process that calls for a due process of consultation and deliberation with all stakeholders. 

Exposure by NewsMinute  

The has exposed how 30 companies were allegedly coerced, after raids by Central agencies, to contribute vast sums of money to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This has been described as nothing short of extortion, with no such parallel from any period of our electoral democracy in the post-Independence period. 

Alpha Numerical Numbers 

The State Bank of India (SBI) did not give all the data on electoral bonds to the Election Commission in spite of the orders of the Supreme Court to do so. Therefore, the top court has now asked the SBI to share each electoral bond’s alpha numeric numbers, which are not visible to the naked eye. This indicates that SBI, under the jurisdiction of the Modi regime, is not willing to share all the details of electoral bonds with the larger public. This violates the right to information of voters. Such secrecy on the part of SBI vitiates the conduct of free and fair elections, held by the Supreme Court as the basic structure of the Constitution.  

Purity of Electoral Process Has to be Restored 

It is rather tragic that such actions of SBI, to persist with opaque electoral bonds ignoring the SC’s order, and that too just a few weeks before the commencement of the 2024 general elections, are going to spell doom for our democracy.

It is heartening to see that the SC has acted fast to restore the purity and integrity of the electoral process. While declaring the electoral bond scheme as unconstitutional, it has observed that the free and fair electoral process has to be defended not just by the Election Commission or Supreme Court but by all concerned.

The people of India need to be in the forefront to salvage our Republic and our electoral democracy from the vicious impact of corporate money power, which the electoral bonds were aimed at ensuring.

The writer served as Officer on Special Duty to President of India K R Narayanan. The views are personal.

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