In a bid to crack down on shady political funding techniques adopted by political parties, Union Finance Minister today not just limited the total amount political parties can receive from anonymous donors to Rs 2000 but also introduced a new concept of “electoral bonds”
Donors to political parties would be able to purchase electoral bonds from authorised banks against cheque and digital payments only. Parties can redeem the bonds only in their designated accounts within the prescribed time limit from the issuance of the bond.
Addressing the Parliament during Budget 2017 presentation, Jaitley said the government would introduce a proposal to amend the Reserve Bank of India Act to enable the issuance of electoral bonds. Among other steps to make the political funding process transparent, Jaitley said political parties would be “entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors.” The parties would also have to file their Income Tax returns within the time limit prescribed by Income-tax Act.
Jaitley’s “electoral bond” idea is interesting but it is doubtful any party would ever encourage its donors to buy. Election funding process in India is an opaque process. It cannot become bright unless parties volunteer themsevles. It is also unlikely that any donor would like to declare her/his political affiliation openly.
Jaitley announced a number of schemes for several sectors. His focus, however, was on rural India. Jaitley said the total allocation for rural, agricultural and allied sectors for 2017-18 is a record Rs 1,87,223 crore which is 24% from what was allocated last year. While preparing the Budget, Jaitley said, his focus was on spending more on rural areas, infrastructure and poverty alleviation with fiscal prudence.
For farmers, Jaitley said dedicated micro-irrigation fund will be set up by NABARD to achieve the goal of ‘Per Drop More Crop’. Initial corpus will be Rs 5000 crore in this regard. NABARD will also set up dairy processing infrastructure fund with Rs 8,000 crore. Jaitley said that participation of women in MGNREGA has increased to 55%. Jaitley also said that the target of agricultural loans to farmers has been set at a record Rs 10 lakh crore in 2017-18.
For MGNREGA, Jaitley said the budget allocation to the scheme has been increased to a record Rs 48,000 crore for 2017-18. Last year, it was Rs 37,000 crore.