Modi govt misled Parliament on electoral bonds, claims report

Huffpost, electoral bonds, P Radhakrishnan, Arun Jaitley
The Law ministry had forwarded the EC’s concerns to the Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry but it remained ignorant of their concerns, the report stated

Congress leaders on Tuesday called out the Narendra Modi-led government for allegedly lying to the Parliament after HuffPost India’s report on how the Centre had tried to muzzle the Election Commission’s opposition to electoral bonds.

On Tuesday, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh called for the scheme to be scrapped while MP Rajeev Gowda called it legalised corruption.

Also read | Modi govt ignored RBI warnings against electoral bonds, reveals report

In a story published by the website on Tuesday, HuffPost India claimed that the Modi government tried concealing the lies of its ministers on the controversial electoral bonds.

Recalling when former minister of state for finance P Radhakrishnan had lied on the floor of the Parliament on electoral bonds, the report revealed, quoting confidential records, how senior officials had constructed false explanations to save the senior BJP leader.

It said the minister had during the last winter session of the Parliament said that the government had received no concerns from the Election Commission on the issue of electoral bonds. This was proved false and a breach of privilege complaint was filed against Radhakrishnan, and this received widespread media coverage.

The report revealed that the Election Commission of India had indeed written to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice in May, 2017 and had warned that “electoral bonds would help political parties hide illegal donations from foreign sources”.

“On July 3, 2017, the Law Ministry forwarded the Election Commission’s concerns to the Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry; but the finance ministry simply pretended it had never heard from the Commission,” the report said.

The Law ministry had forwarded the EC’s concerns to the Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry but it remained ignorant of their concerns, the report stated.

Now, what could be a major expose in this issue is a note by economic affairs secretary SC Garg to Finance Minister Jaitley. A noted dated September 22, 2017, the report said, Garg had written that he “told the (Election) Commissioners that companies would make accounting entries in their books when buying electoral bonds, which would ensure ‘complete transparency’ regarding the ‘source of funds’ used for buying electoral bonds” as well as the ‘quantum of political donations’.”

Also read | Explained: How transparency in electoral bonds helps democracy

Again, this was found to be false, as it was pointed out that companies are not required to mention in their balance sheets whom they had donated electoral bonds. Moreover, what’s available for public scrutiny is a company’s aggregated profit-and-loss accounts and balance sheets.

Further, him mentioning in the note that the Election Commission was “reasonably satisfied” about the electoral bonds being a transparent system was found to be another false statement, the report said, adding that records show that the Commission had in October, 2018 again insisted on rolling back of the electoral bonds.

Also read | SC directs all political parties to furnish receipts of electoral bonds to EC

The report claimed another official, a subordinate of Garg, “came up with three innovate excuses” to cover-up the “lie” that minister Radhakrishnan had said. The bureaucrat allegedly claimed that the ECI had not informed the finance ministry of its concerns about electoral bonds, which contradicts media reports that say otherwise. It also pointed out that Garg had personally met the Election Commissioners during a meeting on July 28, 2018 on the issue.

“The Election Commissioners remained consistently opposed to the bonds even after meeting in person with economic affairs secretary,” the report said quoting “documents with HuffPost India”.

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