The opposition Congress on Thursday protested in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, demanding that the government disclose all details about electoral bonds, alleging that the scheme resulted in money laundering and destroyed transparency in the funding of political parties.
Describing electoral bonds as a "political bribery scheme", Congress leader Manish Tiwari said RTI replies have revealed that the government had overruled serious objections by the Reserve Bank of India to introduce electoral bonds, which allow anonymous funding to be funnelled to the coffers of political parties through bearer instruments issued by the State Bank of India.
“Firstly, the scheme was limited to the Lok Sabha elections. But before the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, the PMO had floated a request for window to be opened for electoral bonds," he told Parliament and said corruption is being covered up through the scheme.
After the Congress demanded that the issue be discussed at length, Rajya Sabha chairman adjourned the house and said (the notices) for discussion do not warrant suspension of other businesses to take this up on priority. In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Om Birla said the issue can be raised in the Zero Hour after the Congress staged protests in the Well of the House.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, said the issue of electoral bonds needs urgent attention and called electoral bonds a “scam". The Congress has demanded that the government disclose all details about electoral bonds before Parliament, including details of donors and who received the funding.
Since the introduction of the scheme by then finance minister Arun Jaitley, electoral bonds worth Rs 6,000 crore have been sold so far. Of the first tranche of Rs 222 crore, 95 per cent of the funds had gone to the ruling BJP, according to data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms.
Citing the RTI replies, the Congress said the finance ministry had sought the RBI’s nod for the scheme just days before unveiling and dismissed reservations about the possibility of money laundering and it undermining confidence in Indian banknotes.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said when electoral bonds were introduced, “many of us had raised serious objections about how it could easily become a way for rich corporations and individuals to influence improperly political parties, particularly the ruling party.”
Ghulam Nabi Azad said the electoral bonds resulted in money laundering, and the trail of it “leads straight to the PM's office”. “The BJP govt is running 90 per cent of the business in this country with a few industrialists," Azad said.
Citing news reports based on RTI documents, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, "The intrigue and the conspiracy has now indicted the prime minister himself. RTI documents now establish the role and indict none less than the prime minister himself."
"Their promise was to bring black money back from offshore accounts, but reverse if that is happening," Surjewala said.