The brazen expenditure of crores of rupees in elections by various political parties and their candidates has become a norm. This truth cannot be denied now. The dominance of black money in elections poses a serious threat to the democratic system of our country. This truth also is undeniable, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey
The exponentially increasing dominance of caste, religion and black money in Indian politics is a matter of serious concern for every Indian. Discussions and serious deliberations have been going on ad infinitum about vanquishing these distortions that have vitiated the country’s politics, but the problem is only increasing with time. Obviously, this is the ill effect of unprincipled politics that humungous black money along with exploitation of caste and religion to get votes is the harsh reality defining the political environment of our country today. Many times electoral reforms were proposed for clean elections, numerous high level committees were formed to look into this issue and give recommendations in this regard but no visible positive change in the electoral scenario has occurred. The brazen expenditure of crores of rupees in elections by various political parties and their candidates has become a norm. This truth cannot be denied now. The dominance of black money in elections poses a serious threat to the democratic system of our country. This truth also is undeniable.
At present, the system of electoral bonds which was started in the year 2019 for election donations ,is saliently occupying centrestage. Recently the Supreme Court has completed the hearing on the PILs filed in this matter and has reserved its decision. But soon after the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bond scheme to finance political parties, the government has approved the issuance of a fresh round of electoral bonds. The sale of electoral bonds for the 29th phase has been started in the midst of elections in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram. The Government of India has permitted the State Bank of India (SBI) to issue and redeem electoral bonds through its 29 authorized branches from November 6 to November 20, 2023. Although this electoral bond scheme (which was notified by the government on 2 January 2018) was introduced as an alternative to cash donations to political parties, in an effort to bring transparency to political funding, the scheme has been criticised due to in built secrecy .Questions were raised on its opacity from the very beginning and it became controversial and its validity was challenged through several PILs in the Supreme Court.
The question of whether any decision or plan is in public interest or not becomes apparent in its execution. Even currently, with regard to these controversial electoral bonds, the government and its supporters have been continuously arguing that the provision of electoral bonds has been made with the sole objective of enabling political parties to receive donations legally- the total secrecy maintained regarding these electoral bonds has raised questions about this entire scheme. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, had suggested a very simple way to decide right and wrong, which has been perhaps forgotten by the people in power- years ago. According to Mahatma Gandhi, any work or decision which has to be kept secret/ hidden from people is always wrong, that is, if there is a need to maintain secrecy in any work/action , then it should be understood that that work or decision is unethical. The kind of confidentiality that has been maintained in the present electoral bond scheme regarding the donor or the bond buyer, makes it clear that something is seriously wrong . After all, there does not seem to be any logic to hide the names of those who bought the bonds and who donated how much to which political party. In our country, the Constitution has mandated the system of rule of law, which has transparency at its core. The rule of law cannot function without transparency. In such a situation, there is no justification for the secrecy maintained in the electoral bond process for donations to political parties . Clearly this system can never pass the test of rule of law. In our political system for decades, black money has been completely dominating elections. The facts of thousands of crores of rupees being spent in every election is the norm. The donations received by the parties through electoral bonds are like the proverbial drop in the ocean. While on one hand, immediate repeal of the opaque electoral bond system would be in public interest, on the other hand, there is an exigent need to seriously discuss and take necessary steps to end the dominance of black money in elections. If the gigantic spider web of black money that has engulfed our political electoral system is not destroyed soon, it will harm our democracy. The situation can be saved only when We the people decide to come forward and take up the responsibility of cleaning up the mess that we are in .Ethical clean politics is the only way forward.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)