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ELECTORAL BONDS .. A 'Then & Now' story

The Home Minister himself spoke of a total of Rs 20000 Cr at the recent India Today summit. The data sourced by Association for Democratic Reforms as disclosed by political parties as donations received through Electoral Bonds (as disclosed in their balance sheets ) is Rs 11986.66 Cr. Let's go with the latter.

While it may still take time to have to exact break-up, the data so far indicates that the ruling BJP has received Rs 6566.13 Cr (or 54%) but even so, the rest have still accounted for Rs 5420.53 Cr (or 46%) of the total of the total Rs 11986.66 Cr mentioned above.

So, what are the merits & demerits of such donations to political parties ? What was the criteria, rather, how should the criteria now be set ? What should be the weights assigned to issues like Clean funds, Donor Anonymity, End Use of funds, Legitimate funding needs, Influence over political decisions & so on

"While the proponents of political reforms were celebrating the Supreme Court judgment, we have gone back to the pre-electoral bonds system where 70% of all donations were in cash" . This statement by S.Y. Quraishi, the former Chief Election Commissioner highlights the real position before 2018.

Donations to registered political parties have long been a source of intrigue as well as suspense. Why would companies (as opposed to individuals with their own biases) be interested in contributing to the political class? Whether, if not through this source viz. Electoral Bonds, they may never contribute at all ?

The 3 biggest corporate groups and even the next 7 (in the private sector) with the highest market cap in the country do not all figure in the list of donors. Do they contribute ? If Yes, why are their names not here? If No, they seem to be prudent or savvy enough to realize that Electoral Bonds were not the way.

So, let's get real and eschew taking positions or potshots on anybody based on the data now released and get on with the more urgent need of crafting a more realistic system based on more disclosure, more scrutiny but a tad more fairer distribution system.

Such a system would probably drive away the more questionable donations which are clearly based on some quid-pro-quo but compensate by attracting funds from the larger pool of companies who can be persuaded to make contributions depending upon their size, revenue and profits.

4078 out of 4295 companies had revenues totaling Rs 4259765 Cr & Net Profits of Rs 359296 Cr in 2022-23. Can a similar scheme take off like in case of Corporate Social Responsibility where 2% of an eligible companies' profits were to be compulsorily used for specific projects notified. If profits grow in future, they'll bring in more companies under the eligible donors list, which may lead to a virtual cycle where they could be rewarded for their contribution to clean elections; and in turn, the cleaner and less competitive politics could provide the environment to become world beaters!

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