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1 Apr, 2024 13:36

India’s Modi defends scrapped political funding scheme

The PM has claimed the revocation by the Supreme Court of the donation scheme won’t impact his party in the upcoming national election
India’s Modi defends scrapped political funding scheme

Recent disclosures about a now-defunct scheme, through which political parties in India could receive funding, will not prove a setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and anyone “dancing” over the revelations will eventually “regret” it, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has said of his party. 

In an interview on Sunday, Modi argued that the electoral bonds scheme, introduced by his government in 2017 but scrapped last month by the Supreme Court as “unconstitutional,” had shortcomings but nonetheless allowed for tracing previously non-transparent political funding in the world’s largest democracy. 

“If a [money trail to a political party] is available today, it is because of the presence of bonds,” he told Southern India’s Thanthi TV channel, as quoted by news agency PTI. “No system is perfect; There can be shortcomings which could be improved upon,” he also suggested.

The electoral bonds scheme, through which Indian citizens or registered organizations could fund a political party anonymously, was launched by Modi’s government to make political donations more transparent. According to data revealed by the Electoral Commission last month following the top court’s order, the BJP was the biggest beneficiary of the scheme, securing almost half of the bonds donated between 2018 and 2024, worth 60 billion rupees ($719 million). 

Opposition parties, too, received large amounts of money via the scheme. The country’s oldest and biggest nationwide opposition party, the Congress, as well as TMC, were among other major recipients. They got 14 billion ($167 million) and 16 billion rupees ($191 million) in donations, respectively.

The funding revelations come just weeks before India’s general election, polling for which will run from April 19 to June 1. Over 970 million people will cast their votes to elect 543 members to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.

Opposition parties have predicted the revelations about the electoral bonds scheme funding of parties will harm the ruling BJP in the elections. Jairam Ramesh, a key leader of Congress, which itself came under the scrutiny of tax authorities in the past month, reacting to Modi’s statements, said on Monday that the details of political funding were only revealed after “strong intervention” by the top court and that the government had insisted on the anonymity of the scheme “until the last day.” The data made public last month, linking political donors and parties, reveals the “monumental corruption” of the Modi-led party and government, Ramesh claims.

The Congress has joined forces with several opposition parties to form the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) as it aims for an electoral takedown of the BJP. However, the party faces serious financial challenges, having received a notice for 18 billion rupees ($218 million) from federal government authorities over alleged tax-evasion charges. Last week, the party’s de-facto leader, Rahul Gandhi, claimed that the government froze the party’s accounts, preventing it from campaigning for the election.

Pollsters predict a victory for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Ahead of polling, the BJP has adopted a slogan of ‘400 paar’ (‘Above 400’), meaning it will win more than 400 seats.

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