To what extent, the recent proposal of electoral bonds can help in increasing transparency in political funding in India? Critically examine.

Published: March 5, 2017

In the Budget 2017-18, government has come up with a proposal to reform political funding. It has unveiled the so called electoral bonds which can redeemed only in the accounts of a political party. These bonds will be issued by the banks to the donors who can then donate them to the party of their choice. Though this move was taken to increase transparency, there are some reservations about its working.
Critics argue that the introduction of new system will only end up in legitimizing the opaque contributions made to the political parties. Unlike the old system which required the political parties to maintain a list of all those donors who have contributed more than Rs. 20,000, the new system make opaque of the donors who make donations. However, government justifies the system by saying that the identity of bond buyers and parties redeeming them will be known to banks, RBI and the government. So it argues that there is no opacity. But there cannot be any check on abuse of the mechanism if it is abused by incumbent parties.
Similarly, lowering the ceiling on anonymous cash donations from Rs 20,000 to Rs. 2000 may not be effective in deterring donors or parties from donating or accepting unnamed donations.
The way forward for ensuring transparent political funding is to let citizens know the identities of big political funders and their interest in making donations. Election Commission on its part has to scrap impractical spending limit and come up with a practical spending limit. After that it can make it compulsory for all the candidates and parties to reveal spending at each level beginning from the level of polling booth.

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