The government is lying; it is cheating the people. That’s what The Quint’s exclusive report on electoral bonds reveals. In its exposé, The Quint “revealed that electoral bonds have hidden alphanumeric numbers printed on them to track down the link between donors and political parties.”
How do you trust such a government? That is the question on everyone’s mind following this report. At the time of introducing electoral bonds, the government had assured that the donor’s identity would remain anonymous, so that a donor could fund the party of their choice without fear or pressure.
They would not have to worry about government harassment. The Quint's report makes it clear that in fact, the government wants to know exactly how much money a person has given to a party. Now, the bigger question is, what it will do with this information.
Were Hidden Numbers on Electoral Bonds on Govt Orders?
The Quint’s report states that every electoral bond has a secret number on it at the top. This number is not visible to the naked eye. The Quint bought two bonds, worth Rs 1000 each, from the State Bank of India. Looking at these bonds does not reveal any hidden numbers or code. But when they were analysed by a credible forensic lab, the secret was revealed.
The numbers that were not visible to the naked eye were exposed when viewed under ultra violet light. Interestingly, as soon as this code was touched, it revealed details of who had bought the bond. That means in reality this number is actually a tracking device. The surprising bit is that when these bonds were issued, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had loudly proclaimed that this information would remain anonymous.
Two questions crop up in light of this revelation. What are the government’s intentions behind this? The bank says that it is simply a ‘security measure’. The question is whose security and what security?
If it is a direct transaction between the donor and the receiver, then what kind of security are they talking about? The bank’s stand is hard to believe. The second question is, have the banks done this on their own or on the government’s orders?
If this secret number was embedded on government orders then that raises big questions. The bank comes under the government. The State Bank of India is not a private bank. It is answerable to the government.
It is highly unlikely that such an order would be taken without the PMO’s cognisance. But the million dollar question is – why would the government want to do this?
How Most Political Parties Get Funding
It is clear that with this venture the government wants to keep an eye on the Opposition parties’ funds. The art of spying has been holding up rulers since the days of Chanakya. A good king is one whose spies keep him apprised of each minute’s details.
The next question is, what will the government do with the information from these bonds? It’s not going to stew them. It must be intended for something. I’ll tell you what that will be. Nobody knows, better than the Aam Aadmi Party, how a government can make life difficult for those against it. In order to ensure transparency in politics and elections, the Aam Aadmi Party had announced that it will upload details of all donations it receives onto its website.
This move was appreciated by one and all. Every penny was accounted for. Before AAP, no other party had done this. How much money BJP and Congress get, no one had any way of knowing. There was no option but to accept whatever the party declares.
Even in that, 70-80 percent of the funds weren’t declared, because the parties said that regulations did not require donations made in cash below twenty thousand rupees to be declared. Amounts higher than that could not be accepted in cash. Now the cap has been fixed at Rs 2,000.
AAP had decided that it would not accept any donations in cash, because that is what leads to black money being channelled to political parties. As over 90 percent of the donations to AAP are though cheques, all monetary transactions can be tracked. We thought that the other parties would soon follow suit. But that didn’t happen.
Ruling Govt’s Efforts to Sway 2019 Polls?
After the Modi government came to power, this transparency of ours became a problem for us. Our donors started getting harassed. They started getting raided. When we looked into it, we were stunned to discover that names and details of our biggest donors were taken from a website and compiled into a list. Then these people were systematically targeted, to send them the message that if you donate to AAP, you can forget about ‘achhe din’ (good days). This information spread throughout the city.
Two things happened. New donors who wanted to give us money got spooked. The number of new donors to AAP reduced significantly. A wave of terror spread through the old donors, who stopped donating to us. These are people who are willing to do anything for the AAP having believed in it, but don’t want to get caught up in problems related to Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, and have their businesses destroyed.
Then information posted by the AAP on our website was picked up and manipulated to draw certain conclusions, and the party started getting income tax notices almost every other day. I also know for a fact that donors of other parties have also been similarly harassed. Since other parties happily accept cash payments, donors started paying more and more in cash as opposed to cheques, which is much harder to detect.
The government’s specific aim is to ensure that opposition parties don’t get any funds so that they don’t have anything to spend during elections. Since the BJP is in power they are not worried about government agencies. This is a meticulous plan to affect the entire election process.
EDC Ought to Take Cognisance of Foul Play
The Election Commission constantly says all parties should have a level-playing field during elections. Only then can we have free and fair elections. The secret numbers on the bonds are a major part of the BJP’s conspiracy, which needs to be condemned in the strongest of terms.
Ideally, the Election Commission should take cognizance of the issue since this is part of an attempt to influence the electoral process. But I doubt that will happen. If it does take cognisance then it will prove that TN Seshan’s tradition is still alive within the Commission. If Seshan had been there, he would definitely have sent a notice to the government asking for an explanation. But first, one must grow a spine in order to become Seshan.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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