Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday hit out at NGOs who claim to be ‘well-meaning’ but have a tendency to “exaggerate or misrepresent.” “NGOs always claim to be well meaning. They have a tendency to either exaggerate or misrepresent. Those dealing with elections and electoral reforms have come out with two categories of reports,” he wrote in his blog titled “The Choice of Political Funding – Cheque, Electoral Bonds or Blackmoney from Contractors and middlemen.”
“The first one says that since in its balance sheet the BJP declares much larger income, it should be assumed that it gets more donations than other parties. The second report says that BJP gets the lion’s share of the electoral bonds,” he added. The Union Minister said that it displayed a lack of understanding about how party’s function.
“All parties need, on a pro-rata basis, the same amount of money depending on the number of seats they are contesting. The only question is ‘What is their fund collection culture?’ Do they still prefer the old obsolete style of the only black money being collected or do they prefer to collect it by legitimate methods like crowdsourcing, cheque and electoral bonds?,” Jaitley questioned. The minister also claimed that the “gullible friends” in the NGOs believe that BJP is getting more funds because BJP declares it.
“Do they (NGOs) honestly believe the balance sheets of the BSP and the SP, the TDP or several other parties? They obviously don’t disclose the income that they get because most of these donations are in cash,” the Union Minister said. Jaitley recalled that as a Law Minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government he had moved a Bill legitimising donation of cheque provided the same are declared to income-tax and the Election Commission.
He also praised the reform brought by former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. “Blessed with great wisdom and depth, he realised that merely providing for cheque donations won’t bring a change. Donors fear the consequences of their revealed identities being linked to a political party to whom they donated. He very wisely masked the identity by creating a pass-through electoral trust in 2010,” the Minister said in his blog.
“In 2017, based on the principle of masking the identity link between the party and the donor, the NDA created the instrument of electoral bonds. This instrument provides for a complete white money donation,” he further said. The minister asserted that both the electoral trust of 2010 and the electoral bonds of 2017 assured total white money and improved transparency but masking the identity of the link between the donor and the party which consequently encouraged donors to donate white money.
Jaitley also expressed surprise over the fact that the attack is against the bonds and not the electoral trusts because the earlier was brought by the NDA and the latter was by UPA even though the underlying principle for both is same. Referring to the recent raids of the Election Commission, the minister said, ” Recent Election Commission and IT raids have shown that it is taxpayers/ Government’s money, which, through PWD and other Departments of the Government, is being siphoned out and round-tripping into politics. Is that a better option or the reformed system of all white money and improved, if not perfect transparency?”
The minister also urged the NGOs to “look beyond their nose.” In a reference to the Income Tax Department raid in some of the states, he said, “The Election Commission and the Income-tax authorities work in close tandem during elections. In many cases, monies have been coming from Government contractors and beneficiaries.”
“In one State, contractors passed on monies to engineers who were to distribute it to the candidates. In another State, which only four months ago elected a new Government, fifty thousand Government transfers became a revenue-generating exercise. Reports have also indicated that an amount of about Rs 1,500 crore has already been seized,” the Minister claimed. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had recently filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Schemes. Its report claimed that the BJP received the largest share of electoral bonds gaining around Rs 210 crore or 94.5 per cent of the total donations made to the political parties in 2017-18.