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Coming down heavily on the Centre's electoral bond scheme for funding of political parties, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi on Friday termed the move a retrograde step and said electoral bonds have legitimised and legalised "crony capitalism".
In an exclusive interview to Outlook, Quraishi said that the move is totally "inconsistent" with what was promised.
Electoral bonds were introduced by the BJP-led NDA government in January 2018 with an aim to make funding to political parties transparent. It allows a political donor to purchase bonds from authorised banks which can be redeemed by parties only through registered accounts in a prescribed time frame. The government's move was resisted by opposition parties and analysts who argued the scheme was counterproductive.
The sale of electoral bonds has skyrocketed ahead of the Lok Sabha elections by 62 per cent as compared to last year with the SBI selling bonds of over Rs 1700 crore, according to an RTI based report.
Before the scheme was introduced, any donation of over Rs 20,000 was reported to the EC, said Quraishi, arguing that the provision allowed the commission to know "who had given how much to whom".
"Earlier, we could see the quid pro quo...if they are getting something back from the government in terms of contracts, bank loans, licenses. All that is gone," lamented Quraishi, who headed the Election Commission of India between 2010-2012.
Quraishi also lauded the Election Commission for opposing the scheme in the Supreme Court saying he hoped that the apex court will order "corrective action".
The government has opposed Election Commission's stand on the issue, and the Supreme Court on Friday refused to grant interim stay on the operation of the Electoral Bonds scheme.
Quraishi also criticised the scheme for legitimising "crony capitalism" and warned of the perils of corporates donating money to political parties without any cap on the amount as a percentage of its profits.
"Earlier no company could donate more than 7.5% of their last three years' profit, that limit has been taken away altogether," said Qureshi, adding that the provisions of Electoral Bonds scheme allows the companies to donate "100 per cent" of their profits.
"Obviously there is no free lunch...if they give money they want something back...they will be running the country," said Quraishi, adding the scheme has "legitimised and legalised crony capitalism".