Electoral bonds are a uniquely Indian mechanism that allow for anonymous donations to political parties. Since their introduction in 2018, these bonds have been the subject of much controversy, with concerns raised about transparency and corruption. Recently, data released by the government suggests that only 64.74% of electoral bonds have been redeemed between March 2018 and November 2022, further fueling these concerns.
The electoral bond system was introduced in 2018 as an amendment to the Finance Bill. This system allows corporations and individuals to donate money to political parties anonymously, without disclosing their identity. The bonds can be purchased from select branches of State Bank of India, and there is no limit to the amount that can be donated. Moreover, the donor and party receiving the donation need not declare the transaction publicly, leading to concerns around transparency and accountability.
Concerns about the electoral bond system were raised soon after its introduction. Critics argued that the system would compromise the transparency of political funding and promote corruption. In fact, the Indian National Congress and other opposition parties have repeatedly challenged the legality of electoral bonds, stating that it violates the constitutional rights of transparency and freedom of speech.
The latest data on the redemption of electoral bonds, released by the government, only stirs up these concerns further. According to the data, between March 2018 and November 2022, only 64.74% of the electoral bonds sold were redeemed. Out of the total value of the bonds sold, only 61.35% were redeemed. This means that a significant number of electoral bonds remain unredeemed. The government has not provided any information on the reason behind this, further raising questions about the accountability of political funding in the country.
This data is particularly alarming given the upcoming state elections in India. With crucial state elections looming on the horizon, political parties are ramping up their fundraising efforts. However, the lack of transparency around political funding makes it impossible to determine whether those funds come from legitimate sources or are the result of illicit and corrupt practices.
The unredeemed electoral bonds also create another alarming possibility—that shady money is being invested in opposition parties, which could result in them accepting donations from sources they would not want to acknowledge. The fact that so many electoral bonds are remaining unredeemed suggests that both donors and parties have something to hide, and that this lack of transparency could be facilitating corrupt practices.
Another major concern is that the electoral bond scheme has created a system of crony capitalism where the ruling party would have access to more funds than others. This bias in the system was also pointed out by former Chief Election Commissioners of India. The government has been accused of deliberately maintaining this opacity to keep opposition parties in the dark.
The government’s claim that the electoral bond system avoids cash transactions and promotes transparency is being challenged by critics who say that it subverts transparency and accountability. This is because the identity of the buyer has been kept anonymous, and the party receiving the donation need not declare the transaction publicly.
There is a growing demand for greater transparency in political funding in India, with critics and opposition parties calling for the abolition of the electoral bond system. Instead, they are advocating for more transparency in the funding of political parties, including the sources of their funding, donations made, and how the money was spent.
In conclusion, the data on the redemption of electoral bonds raises serious concerns about the transparency and accountability of political funding in India. The fact that only 64.74% of electoral bonds have been redeemed suggests that there could be shady money involved in political donations. It also highlights the need to institute stringent regulations to promote greater transparency and accountability in political funding. As the state elections approach, political parties must take more steps to monitor the sources of their funding and ensure that they do not engage in corrupt practices. It is essential to maintain the integrity of the democratic process in India and prevent the emergence of crony capitalism.