Editorial 26 march 2024:

Editorial 26 march 2024:

Sordid scheme:

On the electoral bond scheme, electoral financing:

Following the Supreme Court of India-ordered release of the final tranche of data from the State Bank of India, it has now been possible to get a nearly complete picture of electoral financing, which was once an opaque route. The SBI had to release data of the unique numbers for electoral bonds purchased by corporate and individual donors and later encashed by political parties. That the SBI had to be prodded twice by the Court to release these chunks of data — in the first instance they were without the unique numbers that could connect donors with parties — is an indictment of the bank which had initially sought an extension till June 30, 2024, well after the general election, to release the information. On the other hand, it took only a few hours for news organisations to perform a simple data-matching exercise to connect the two sets of information — on the companies that had purchased the bonds and on the parties that had encashed them. A cursory look at the data reveals the inefficacy of the argument for the need for opacity of electoral bonds that had been propounded by the Union government, but one soundly rejected by the Court. For one, there seems to be a clear correlation between large donations being made to certain political parties and bond purchasers receiving high-value infrastructure contracts. In some cases, there is strong correlation between entities being subject to actions or facing probes by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income-Tax Department, and later these entities or their representatives purchasing bonds. This is especially so for many donors who purchased these bonds that were later encashed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

That the top 19 firms — based on the cumulative size of donations made — went on to invariably fund the BJP, besides other parties, from mid-2019 to February 2024 (22 firms donated ₹100 crore or more in this period) also suggests that the bonds were a device used to curry favour with the establishment. The presence of a unique identifier for these bonds in the hands of the SBI, which could allow it to keep an audit trail of transactions, and that the Finance Ministry had allowed certain bonds to be encashed even after their expiry date (within 15 days of the purchase date) showed that the scheme had also created undue advantage for the ruling party. It is clear that the bonds had skewed campaign and party financing heavily in the favour of the ruling party, besides putting a veil over the unscrupulous motivations for the donations. It is now incumbent upon civil society to enlighten the electorate about the scheme and to raise questions about the skewed nature of donations. This will just be the first step to cleansing the system.

Meaning of the words:

tranchetypically refers to a portion or slice of something, often used in financial contexts. In finance, a tranche usually refers to a specific portion of a larger financial arrangement, such as a loan or a bond issue, that is divided into smaller parts with different characteristics or terms.
opaqueis used to describe something that is difficult to understand or see through, either physically or metaphorically.
proddedmeans to poke or jab someone or something gently, often with a pointed object or with one’s finger, to encourage action or to draw attention to something.
indictmentis a formal accusation or charge brought against someone by a grand jury or other competent authority, typically for a serious crime.
opacityrefers to the quality or state of being opaque, which means the inability to see through or understand something clearly.
Cumulativerefers to the accumulation or addition of something over time or in a gradual manner. It implies that items are being added together progressively to form a total or aggregate.
undueis used to describe something that is excessive, unwarranted, or not justified by the circumstances
unscrupulousdescribes someone who is dishonest, lacking in moral principles, and willing to do things that are considered unethical or immoral in order to achieve their goals.
incumbentIncumbent can also mean something that is necessary as a duty or obligation. For instance, it could be said that it is incumbent upon citizens to pay taxes or to obey the law.

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