Indian Express
Express News Service

Transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj says that changes in the Companies Act made it easy for shell companies to donate large sums to political parties.

Social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and other activists and civil society members addressed a gathering on the topic “Electoral bond-why is this the biggest scam” at the Gandhi Bhavan in Bengaluru.

“… One of the biggest fountainheads of corruption in our country is political party funding…basically, political parties work behind a veil of secrecy…take money from big corporates, and instead of working for the public interest, they work in the interest of who they take money from,” said Bhardwaj, co-convener of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, at the event held on Saturday (April 20).

Bhardwaj noted there were earlier two ways in which parties got funds, through the banking system or in cash. She noted that while the former was visible to the public and regulators, the latter was a “black hole”.

“They (the BJP) set up electoral bonds as a system for political parties to take unlimited anonymous funds, and not tell anyone including regulators where they were getting this money from,” she added.

Bhardwaj said that changes in the Companies Act had also made it easy for shell companies to come up and donate large sums to parties, adding that RBI warnings with regard to the use of electoral bonds in money-laundering had also been ignored.

Prashant Bhushan said at the event, “I want to raise a larger issue here, which is of our electoral democracy. Democracy means ‘rule by the people’. The BJP, being the party at the Centre, has been able to control most of the instruments of propaganda…it also controls a lot of government money, our money, which is also being used for propaganda of the government.”

Bhushan observed that investigative agencies were used to harass the BJP’s opponents and dry up the relatively smaller funds that they had. He also said the current first-past-the-post system led to election results which were disproportionate to candidates’ vote shares.

Bhushan also raised the issue of Election Commission’s limit on poll spending. “The limit was Rs 75 lakh for a candidate. If the BJP candidate puts up candidates in all Lok Sabha seats, it can spend around R 400 crore maximum. But by way of electoral bonds alone, BJP has got Rs 8,300 crores… And this is only half the money BJP has collected in the last six years….. This makes a mockery of the limit of expenses on candidates,” he said.

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