Interview | 'Didn't Get Due Credit': Congress Petitioner Against Electoral Bonds

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Congress leader Dr Jaya Thakur talks about challenges faced during the electoral bonds case.

6 min read

"It's not about credit. Whether people understand or not, I did what I had to do. I felt that the corruption across the country needed to be stopped and electoral bonds were furthering it. Money laundering, black money, everything was involved in it. So much funding was happening via shell companies. It was a big issue," said Dr Jaya Thakur, the sole leader from the Congress who was one of the co-petitioners in the electoral bonds case.

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on 15 February struck down the electoral bonds scheme and ordered that donations received to every party since it was launched be made public by 13 March.

Along with NGOs Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Thakur had moved court saying that the scheme is "inconsistent with free and fair elections."

"They call themselves 'invincible' now. Would it have been possible in under ten years? I don't think so. But they can say that today because they had that kind of a backup," Thakur said.

But while the Congress party (also one of the beneficiaries of the bonds) welcomed the verdict, many, including Thakur, feel that she did not get enough credit or support from the party for her efforts.

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Thakur talks about the challenges before her during the case, how she was questioned by many from within the party, and how she thinks the Opposition failed to stand up against the Narendra Modi government on the electoral bonds scheme.


Jaya Ji, welcome to The Quint and Quint Hindi and welcome to our show 'Badi Badi Baatein'. When the SC verdict came after a six-year-long battle, what was your reaction?

I was very happy, undoubtedly. I had expected this verdict. This was a very serious issue. The very first thing the court said was that schemes should be designed in a way that benefit everybody, be it a student or a farmer. When you donate to somebody via electoral bonds, your name or the amount doesn't get disclosed. There was a huge possibility of shell companies and corporate entities giving funds and take favours on their businesses or land deals. The scheme was brought keeping their future benefits in mind.

The judges also saw it that way and I am happy that they understood our point. I was happy how sternly they striked down the electoral bonds and years of our struggle came to an end.

When and why did you feel that you should move court against the electoral bonds.

The way things moved forward after this scheme was launched and the way businessmen were benefitting, I felt that the scheme was carefully planned. You see the growth and increment of businessmen like Adanis and Ambanis in the past few years while poor farmers are still fighting for their basic rights on the streets.


Many feel the SC verdict was delayed. Do you think it was delayed or the process was taking its course?

Yes, it was delayed. But when it's the courts, they have their own processes. It's good that the scheme has been cancelled before the Lok Sabha. They got six-seven years to work with it and get funds, plan their strategies accordingly, planned their big rallies, shows, etc.

As a petitioner, what were the key hurdles for you during the course of the arguments?

The biggest hurdle was that nobody took the issue seriously. One first had to fight their own people and explain to them how important it is for us. Then there are people areound me who kept telling me why I keep taking everything on myself and involve myself in everything.

It's very difficult that you have to explain the importance of it to your own people and that it will have an impact. It may not be understandable to people immediately but a few years down the line it will make a mark.

If this scheme wasn't there, I don't think the BJP would have been able to grow the way they have. They call themselves 'invincible' now. Would it have been possible in under ten years? I don't think so. But they can say that today because they had that kind of a backup. You see the way they broke parties in Maharashtra and other places, the way huge sums are given to MLAs - we need to know their source of funding. Right to Information guarantees that to us. 


You said that you had to fight your own people. You went to SC against a scheme that even your party was benefitting from. Did you fear political repercussions of your decision?

Maybe. Whenever you pick up an issue, there will be 80 /100 people with you but 20 will be against you. That stands true for everything. Even Lord Ram did not have the support of everybody around him, so I don't expect that either. Even if a few people believe in my ideology, that is good enough for me. I do things to make the world a better place, that's all. 

Did you face opposition from any leaders or members of your own party?

See, there are times leaders oppose because they don't understand the issue entirely. When petitions and courts are involved, not everybody understands the issue - that's a fact. Some leaders also suggested that I should not use the party name. Can you believe it? They suggested I shouldn't use Congress with my name. I said it will be my pleasure. I am Dr Jaya and my name will be more than sufficient. So, such things happen too.

They don't understand that what you are doing will be beneficial to them. You have to give them an explanation sometimes. You have to ask them if they even know the issue and they say they don't. So, you have to face opposition sometimes from your own people first sometimes and then from the opposing parties. Some people from opposing parties at times try to tell you politely, some people from your own party at times try to stop you from working at all. It happens!


Many people feel that you were not give due credit for your work by the Congress party for you work against electoral bonds.

That's true. This is the drawback of the Congress. It's not like there is a dearth of good people here. There are lots of good people working for them and that's why it is standing where it is. Otherwise, it (the work) would not have shown anywhere they way BJP manages things.

But there are different systems here, some channels that don't let you work. If you are capable, the first ones to feel threatened are the people around you. Such things need to stop. If the Congress wants to grow, good people should be allowed to progress. 

You think you did not get due credit from the Congress over electoral bonds victory?

Maybe. I think what I did was a big achievement not just for the Congress but for every party which is working in this country - in Bihar, West Bengal, in the south. If they want funds, they have to follow a system, Otherwise, how do you fight against the BJP? The BJP was taking all the funds, not disclosing names, favouring selective people. This was a very big issue. It's not about credit. Whether people understand or not, I did what I had to do.

I felt that the corruption across the country needed to be stopped and electoral bonds were furthering it. Money laundering, black money, everything was involved in it. So much funding was happening via shell companies. It was a big issue.


You think the Congress as a party should have moved court against electoral bonds?

Yes, they should have at the very beginning. You are the second-largest party after the BJP. If they propose some scheme which is going against you (your ideology), then why not?

You think the Opposition should have opposed the electoral bonds more staunchly? Or did Opposition parties too wanted to let it pass?

Undoubtedly, the Opposition should have raised their voice and unitedly so. The Opposition, though, is self-destructing. The members are so upset and devoid of energy, they are scared of the image that the BJP has created, they think that the BJP cannot be defeated. So, they don't even try. But that's not true. If you protest properly, things change. While the Opposition get cowered by the BJP, they have good management. 

The problem with the Congress is that they cannot even get their own achievements noted. They don't convey their good achievements properly to be able to convince the other side. I feel that's the biggest drawback of the Congress today. This is what I find missing, but I think we are working on it.

You have filed petitions on several issues till date. There are many who think that the faith in the Supreme Court is wavering. What do you have to say about it?

I don't think the faith in the Supreme Court is wavering. One has to understand that the SC will not work according to your whims always. They have their systems and work in their own way. If you make a demand today and say that it should be fulfilled immediately, it doesn't happen.

It takes time. And when it does, people think that the courts don't want to do their work. That's not true. If it was, I would not have got so many successes. Rest depends on how people perceive it.

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