Editorial – March 18, 2024

Editorial – March 18, 2024

Editorial – March 18, 2024

Title: Bonded favours: On the electoral bond scheme, sordid revelations

Sordid revelations that keep pouring from the disclosure of details about the purchasers and recipients of electoral bonds confirm the early apprehension of sceptics that the anonymous political funding scheme will have undesirable consequences.

Ranging from likely quid pro quo deals to flagrant proximity between companies being investigated by central agencies and the purchase of electoral bonds worth hundreds of crores by these firms, the scheme has played out exactly as its detractors predicted.

Fears that shell companies and loss-making entities may be used to buy the electoral bonds and donate them to parties seem to have come true. The argument that waiver of the rule that political donations can be made by companies only up to a certain percentage of their profits will render the scheme illegal has been proved right. The Supreme Court of India did well to voice these concerns, flagging the potential for wrongdoing and striking down the bonds scheme in its entirety as unconstitutional.

However, the delay in disposing of the multiple challenges to the scheme, without ever staying its operation over the years, has had its own cost. It is a sobering thought for all those invested in democracy to note that the political and corporate classes have lived up to the public expectation that they are ready to use the scheme for mutual benefit rather than solve the problem of unclean funds vitiating the election campaign.

Some details about who donated to which party are emerging now, thanks to a few parties having disclosed their names and given them to the Election Commission of India on the Court’s orders.However, it is disappointing that both the ruling BJP and the Congress didnot disclose them even in sealed covers. It is possible that there will be more revelations in the coming days when unique numbers given to each bond are disclosed.

The role of investigative agencies has been politically controversial, especially under the present regime, but the strong correlation between searches and arrests on one hand, and the dates of purchase of bonds on the other, shows the Centre in a bad light. It will be a dark day for democracy if it emerges that the agencies were used to arm-twist people into making political contributions.

The BJP has, unsurprisingly, emerged as the largest beneficiary, having received well above ₹6,000 crore and nearly half the contributions made through the bonds route. However, its attempt to describe contributions as comparatively low if seen against the fact that it has the largest number of Lok Sabha members is quite naive, or worse, self-incriminating. Power and influence do attract political funding, but misusing them either by muscular demonstration or the promise of reward will ultimately be subversive of democracy.

Meaning of the important words

Sordidinvolving immoral or dishonourable actions and motives; arousing moral distaste and contempt.
apprehensionthe act or power of perceiving or comprehending
flagrantconspicuously bad or objectionable
detractorssomeone who criticizes something or someone
entiretywith all parts included
soberingcreating a more serious, sensible, or solemn mood.
vitiatingspoil or impair the quality or efficiency
regimea government, especially an authoritarian one
self-incriminatingthe act of saying or doing something that shows that you are guilty of a crime:
subversiveseeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.

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