By Ruma Dubey
When it comes to getting the black money out of the people of India, the Govt was so clear and left no stone unturned. It went on chanting the mantra that India would go cashless and become so transparent in all its dealings.
But when it comes to its own funding policies, it has chosen to give itself a special status, going from transparent to opaque. The FM in his Budget FY18 speech had said very eloquently that he wanted to make the process of political funding transparent.
He also went to announce some measures which now on hindsight seem pointless. He lowered the threshold limit on anonymous cash donations from Rs.20,000 to Rs.2000. Really? What is to prevent from this one “anonymous” person giving 10 Rs.2000 cash donations instead of the earlier one of Rs.20,000?
The FM also said in a sort righteous way that all political parties would be required to file their IT returns. Wasn’t that the rule already? What was so new about the FM stipulating this?
Along with these two, the FM also announced two more things. It gave its nod to parties getting any amount of money, no limit whatsoever, as long as it came by cheque or through digital transfers. He also allowed usage of RBI issued Electoral Bonds as a tool for political donation.
And adding to this, yesterday the Lok Sabha approved amendments to the Finance Bill, wherein for corporate political funding, it removed the cap of 7.5% of average net profits of previous three fiscals. This means it is left to the discretion of the companies and sometimes to the arm twisting tactics of political parties to get maximum out of the companies, as there is now no limit capped.
To make things more opaque, the FM did away with the need for companies to disclose in their profit and loss accounts the name of the political parties to which they contributed. This was such a treasure trove of information and was a step in the right direction for India Inc but that has been nipped. Complete secrecy when it comes to taking money. The Govt has added that the company only needs to mention the amount contributed to political funding without the need to give a break-up of which party gets how much.
Thus at the end of it, what did the Budget FY18 do for political party funding? It opened the doors wide open for companies to contribute as much as they wanted, without having to even name the beneficiaries. When we as an individual file our IT returns, any donation or gift has to be mentioned clearly, with the name of the beneficiary, his/her relationship to you has to also be made evident. But here, company can donate crores under the mere category of “Political funding”. Now is this the promised transparency in political funding process? They have made it worse than what it was earlier!
So if there is a company which makes roads. As per the new rules, the company is no longer restricted to 7.5% average net profit of three years limit; so it will contribute 50% and what do we see, the company gets all the major road work orders from the party that it paid its 50% profit to. And all this the Govt has made it legal, no question of ethics can ever be asked. Political funding will become the route through which kickbacks will now be routed.
Thus on one-hand the Govt makes every single move to make all dealings of the common man cashless and transparent, linking everything to Aadhaar. And then on the other, it makes this nexus between political parties and companies more opaque. Why these double standards?
This will indeed one big, black spot on the Govt which is promoting itself as a corruption free, cashless, transparent, with an eye on reforms Govt.