As the Supreme Court is the custodian of the Constitution, it should not take the petition to stop the sale of electoral bonds as an ordinary one, this is of urgent importance for the sustenance of democracy in the country, writes NITYA CHAKRABORTY.
It is welcome that the Court has agreed to hear the petition after a long gap but justice has to be done before the state assembly elections start. The learned judges have the solemn task of ensuring a level playing field.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on March 24 the petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) to stop the sale of electoral bonds till the issue is decided by the apex court.
This hearing on the eve of the state assembly polls beginning on March 27 is of crucial importance to the national politics of the country as the next tranche of the bonds is expected for sale shortly.
The Supreme Court heard this petition earlier also but did not give it due importance though the ruling party BJP took full advantage of the earlier issuance of the electoral bonds to vastly strengthen its coffers. It is being used now in the campaign for the elections to the four states and one union territory.
Reports so far indicate that the BJP is spending lavishly on the eve of the elections and its organisational machinery is so flush with funds that the other competitors are finding it extremely difficult to compete.
There is no level playing field in terms of resource mobilisation and this is dangerous for the smooth functioning of democracy.
The financial muscle power of BJP is most manifest in the present campaigning in West Bengal which is getting maximum focus from the Sangh Parivar as a part of its bid to have one party one nation programme.
The party has launched a no-holds campaign and defections are organised by allurements of both money and power. The central agencies are also being used to suit the political interests of the ruling party.
The two opponents Trinamool Congress and the Congress-Left-ISF alliance are no match in terms of mobilising money power. It is a one-street battle in terms of financial muscle power.
At this juncture, the release of the fresh electoral bonds on April 1, will only enrich BJP at the cost of Congress and other regional parties.
Earlier, more than 90 percent of the electoral bonds went to the BJP. The Party is friendly with most of the corporates and it is in a position to operate on the basis of quid pro quo since it is in power at the centre.
The Congress has lost its clout to the corporates in view of its present weak position and very little hope of coming back to power in the coming period. This has led the big houses and the traders to look for BJP only.
Since the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, there has been a sea change in the manner of conducting elections. The political parties are spending heavily on campaigning and social media has been playing a major role in influencing the opinion of the electorate.
The expenditure limit of the candidates set by the election commission has become meaningless as the political parties are free to spend huge amounts for campaigning.
The BJP is taking maximum advantage of the present opportunity by spending huge funds for campaigning destroying any level playing field in the election battle.
The government amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), by making it legal for foreign companies to donate to political parties through their subsidiaries in India.
This helps the ruling party at the centre most. Again, the amendment was made in the companies act wherein the cap of 7.5 percent of annual profits in the last three years which could be made by the companies as a donation to political parties, was removed. This also is helping BJP as the industrial houses depend on the government-run by BJP for favours.
All the latest amendments in the Finance Act made after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, only helped the BJP in getting huge donations from the corporate houses and foreign companies.
The Income Tax Act was amended to ensure that the donor companies do not have to disclose details. The transparency in every form has been done away with.
The electoral bonds scheme was opposed by both the election commission and the RBI but the government ignored both and rushed through it.
The Election Commission does not know the name of the donors but this is known to the issuer: State Bank of India and the government. It is a bizarre situation.
As the Supreme Court as the custodian of the Constitution, it should not take this petition as an ordinary one, this is of urgent importance for the sustenance of democracy in the country.
It is welcome that the Court has agreed to hear the petition after a long gap but justice has to be done before the state assembly elections start. The learned judges have the solemn task of ensuring a level playing field. (IPA Service)