According to a recent report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 66% of the income of seven national parties from electoral bonds came from unknown sources. This revelation has once again highlighted the issue of the lack of transparency in political funding, which has been a cause of concern for years.
Electoral bonds were introduced in 2018 in an attempt to make political funding more transparent. These bonds are essentially a way for donors to donate money to political parties anonymously. The donor purchases an electoral bond from a designated bank, and the political party can then cash in the bond and receive the money. The idea behind this was to prevent black money from entering political funding and to ensure that political parties were not receiving dubious funding.
However, the recent report by the ADR shows that the very purpose of introducing electoral bonds has not been achieved. The report states that out of the total income of seven national parties from electoral bonds between March 2018 and January 2019, 66% came from unknown sources. This means that the identity of the donors who purchased these bonds remains undisclosed.
The seven national parties that were included in the report are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Trinamool Congress.
The report also revealed that the BJP received the highest amount of funding from electoral bonds, with a total of ₹210.55 crore. The Congress was the second-highest recipient, with a total of ₹58.08 crore. The BSP received ₹10 lakh while the CPI (M) received ₹1.64 crore. The CPI and NCP received ₹29.60 lakh and ₹1 crore respectively, while the Trinamool Congress received ₹1.27 crore.
The fact that such a large percentage of the income of national parties is from unknown sources raises serious questions about the transparency of political funding. This is especially concerning because political parties play a crucial role in shaping the policies of a country and, therefore, it is important to ensure that they are not influenced by illegal or unethical means.
Moreover, the lack of transparency in political funding goes against the principles of democracy. In a democratic country, the people have the right to know where political parties are getting their funding from. This allows them to make informed decisions about which parties to support and crucially, ensures that the political parties are accountable to the people.
It is noteworthy that the ADR report is based on information obtained through Right to Information (RTI) queries. The Election Commission of India has yet to release any information about the funding received by political parties through electoral bonds. This lack of transparency is alarming and raises questions about the role of the Election Commission in ensuring the transparency of political funding.
The issue of the lack of transparency in political funding is not new. It has been a matter of concern for years. In 2017, the Supreme Court of India had directed the government to take steps to ensure that political funding is made more transparent. However, the introduction of electoral bonds has done little to address this issue.
The ADR report has once again highlighted the urgent need to address the issue of transparency in political funding. The government needs to take concrete steps to ensure that political parties are not receiving illegal or unethical funding. This can be achieved by making political funding more transparent and accountable.
One solution could be to introduce a cap on political donations, as is the practice in many other countries. This would ensure that political parties are not overly dependent on a few wealthy donors and would limit the influence of illegal or unethical funding.
Moreover, the Election Commission needs to play a more proactive role in ensuring that political funding is transparent. The Commission should release detailed reports on the funding received by political parties and should take action against parties that are found to be receiving illegal or unethical funding.
In conclusion, the ADR report has once again highlighted the lack of transparency in political funding in India. The government needs to take immediate steps to address this issue and ensure that political parties are not receiving illegal or unethical funding. Electoral bonds have failed to achieve their intended purpose, and it is time for the government to consider alternative solutions to ensure that political funding is transparent and accountable.