Public Administration Mains 2018 : Model Question and Answer - 73
(Public Administration Paper II / Chapter: Union Government and Administration)
(Current Based) Question: Discuss Electoral Bonds in the context of transparency in political funding. (20 Marks/350 Words)
Corporate donations constitute the main source of election funding in India which is awash with black money, with business and corporate donations to political parties commonly taking this form. The concern for transparency in political funding is at complete odds with the electoral bonds scheme notified by the government to clean election finance. Simply put, anybody can buy electoral bonds in the form of bearer bonds from specified branches of the State Bank of India and donate it anonymously to a political party of their choice; the party must cash the bonds within 14 days.
All donations given to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets but without exposing the donor details to the public. Donors continue to prize anonymity as they fear disclosure could invite adverse consequences from political opponents. As a result, the Election Commission (EC), the Income Tax department and the voter would remain in the dark about it. However, the ruling dispensation at the Centre, if it wants, can ferret out information on who’s funding whom from banking authorities on some pretext or the other.
Bonds will allow corporate houses to make anonymous donations through banking channels to the party of their choice. This would lead to further opacity in the funding process and further limit oversight and accountability. Transparency is a global norm while opacity of election funding is an area of existential concern for democracies.
The government’s principal aim is to reduce the role of unaccounted cash in the electoral process and not the corporate control of politics. Sure enough, the bonds scheme imposes no restrictions on the quantum of corporate donations.Consequently, electoral bonds cannot address the problems that arise from the corporate control over politics and corporate capture of government policies and decisions. Rather, electoral bonds will result in unlimited and undeclared funds going to certain political parties which will be shielded from public scrutiny as the balance sheets will not show which party has been the beneficiary of this largesse. (Total Words- 332)
Valuable inputs from The Hindu Opinion: ‘A Vote for State Funding’ by Zoya Hasan
(Linkages: Political Funding and Transparency, Political Funding and Corporate Houses, Political Funding and Electoral Bonds)