Given how political funding has been a route to whitewash illegal money, the government is right when it says that switching to electoral bonds was a quantum leap in ensuring clean political funding. With electoral bonds, the identity of a large donor is captured by the issuing bank. This means illegal wealth can be traced if it is being ploughed into political funding. But, keeping the identity of a donor ‘secret’ means the electorate will never be able to check for any quid pro quo that a donor-political party indulge in. Electoral bonds do introduce an element of traceability, but are an imperfect solution.
Petitions at the Supreme Court filed by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and the Association for Democratic Reforms highlight some new concerns. While the donors remained anonymous in the public domain, parties are also not required to disclose the names of donors who have taken the corporate bond route. At the same time, the government has removed the earlier donation cap of 7.5% of average of three-year net profit for corporate donors. This means a firm can donated unlimited money to party without the public ever getting to know. This surely doesn’t help the cause of transparency. Besides, the fact is that, while it was argued that the donors will remain anonymous, with most of the bonds issued and encashed at public-sector banks, the ruling party can always access these particulars since it is the promoter of the PSBs. This means the ruling party can always arm-twist a donor to an opposition party into submission. But, returning to the older system is unacceptable since it will mean giving up even the partial check that is there on black money funding politics in the country.