Opposition asks PM to answer on electoral bonds, Cong protests in Parliament complex

New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) The Opposition on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come clean on the allegations surrounding the electoral bonds scheme and accused the government of legalising corruption.

Opposition parties led by the Congress, which protested in Parliament premises and described the issue as a 'threat to democracy', sought to raise the matter in the Rajya Sabha but were not allowed to do by the Chair.

The CPI(M) along with the CPI also hit out at the government over the issue of electoral bonds and said it was 'legalised political corruption'.

Several senior Congress leaders, including leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari, protested against the government inside Parliament House premises.

Tewari said there should be a discussion in the house. 'These electoral bonds are a threat to democracy,' he told reporters.

The MPs held placards asking the prime minister to break his silence on the issue, raised slogans against the government and called for ending the electoral bonds scheme.

The issue of electoral bonds has snowballed into a political flashpoint following a report by a news portal that the Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission had reservations against them but were overruled by the Modi government.

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a tweet, cited another media report by the portal that claimed the government had made SBI accept expired electoral bonds sold in illegal window, and asked, '... is this government or a factory of lies'.

Citing the same report, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said it has made four disclosures in the case of donations through electoral bonds.

A BJP government minister on Thursday parroted a paper in front of the press, but where are the answers to questions, the Congress general secretary said.

'1. Is it true that the objections of RBI and Election Commission were rejected? 2. It is written in the report that during the Karnataka elections, the Prime Minister allowed the sale of the bond illegally? Is it true? 3. The identity of the donor is confidential -- Has the government lied?' she said in a tweet in Hindi.

The illegal extension of these bonds to state assembly elections on PMO's orders requires an explanation by the prime minister, Tharoor said in a tweet.

The BJP on Thursday defended electoral bonds as a 'successful attempt to usher in honest money in politics' and slammed the Congress for criticising them, saying 'the alliance of the defeated and the dejected corrupt politicians' do not want clean, tax-paid transparent money in elections.

'Electoral bonds brought in honest money in electoral politics. People who are making baseless allegations against the Union government about electoral bonds have grown used to black money and believe in its use during elections,' BJP leader and Union minister Piyush Goyal had said.

The Congress, from its official Twitter handle, on Friday alleged the BJP government lied to the people of India and its democratic institutions to pass the electoral bond scheme, only to make themselves richer.

'Electoral Bonds with denomination of Rs. 1 crore constituted 91 per cent of all bonds sold - meaning the only people donating money to political parties are the rich and already powerful and most likely looking for quid pro quo,' the opposition party said.

Electoral bonds have 'legalised corruption and money laundering', not only are the donors and donation amounts completely hidden from public scrutiny, the system allows for complete opaqueness from political parties and donors, it said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also attacked the government on the matter.

'Scrap electoral bonds. These are legalised political corruption and were also used for horse-trading by flouting rules under directions of PM Modi. Whenever BJP needed money these bonds were permitted to be issued flouting its own laid down rules,' Yechury said on Twitter.

In a statement, the Left party, quoting the news report, said the recent exposures on 'how the electoral bond scheme was a route to finance the ruling party' has once again established that such legalisation of political corruption must end.

'The PMO has been directing the Finance Ministry to instruct the State Bank of India to flout the ministry's own laid down rules to permit the realisation of expired bonds to facilitate its horse-trading in the post Karnataka assembly election situation that resulted in a hung assembly,' the CPI(M) said.

'In the interests of Indian democracy and the sanctity of our election process, these electoral bonds must be scrapped immediately,' it said.

CPI general secretary D Raja said his party along with other Left parties has consistently opposed corporate funding of political parties.

'Now, many things are coming out. The BJP is fascinated with electoral bonds which are opaque. It has also not submitted its election expenses to the Election Commission. BJP needs to explain how it got its money and how it can take money from fugitives,' said Raja.

Trading barbs at each other over the issue of electoral bonds, the Congress on Thursday had called them an opaque route to make the 'government corruption official' while the BJP hit back and accused it of opposing such bonds as they curb black money and brought in 'honest' money in politics. PTI ASK/ASG ASK MIN MIN