The Rafale saga came to an end conclusively with the Supreme Court dismissing review petitions against its earlier verdict where it refused to order an investigation into the deal. Now, a new political storm has been created in the country. It revolved around electoral bonds. The Huffington Post in a series of reports has claimed that electoral bonds brought ‘untraceable funds into Indian politics’.
The very claim is dubious as even before electoral bonds were brought in, the political funding came from mostly unidentifiable sources. It is not a matter of contention that political funding was opaque even before electoral bonds were filed. Thus, electoral bonds were brought in with the very purpose of preventing dubious money from getting into politics. Earlier, there was no record of where the money was coming from and where it went. The introduction of electoral bonds which have KYC attached to it and that can only be sourced through banks means that now the banks know where the money is coming from. Therefore, the allegation that the government brought ‘untraceable bonds into Indian politics’ is entirely baseless.
Amusingly enough, the Huffington Post busts its narrative itself in the same report. The headline of the report was titled ‘Electoral Bonds Are Traceable: Documents Nail Govt Lie On Anonymity‘. It seems a bit bewildering. Can funds be untraceable and the bonds remain traceable at the same time? In the world of Huffington Post, perhaps, but not in the world we live in.
Electoral Bonds and the RBI
The Huffington Post also claims that the NDA government overruled the RBI. It is not as explosive as the Huffington Post would like to believe. For the purpose, the government had to bring amendments in the RBI Act and this lies squarely in the domain of the Indian Parliament. In the end, in matters of national policy, the Government of India is the sovereign. The RBI may have its objections and it’s only natural that different people will differ on matters of policy but such differences of opinion do not automatically mean that there’s malice involved in the government’s actions.
It is pertinent to note here that not even the Huffington Post alleged that the government committed any illegality by overruling the RBI. And they cannot because there was no illegality committed. But as it so happened, there were a series of consultations between the government and the RBI. We were told by reliable sources, “Between the passing of the Finance Bill on 31st March 2017 and Notification of the Electoral Bond Scheme on 2nd January 2018, there were multiple interactions between the RBI and the government where certain modifications were brought about by the government on the suggestions of RBI.”
We were told that the validity of the electoral bonds was reduced to 15 days from the initially proposed 30 days after RBI’s objection. The RBI also offered to issue the bonds but they wanted to issue it in only electronic form, which was not accepted by the government. Thus, there were consultations involved where the democratically elected government accepted certain suggestions and rejected others as is normal in any democracy.
Another objection that is doing the rounds is that “the central bank never actually gave the government its explicit consent to go ahead with the electoral bond scheme as envisaged”. But the question here is, why should the democratically elected Government of India need formal consent of the RBI for electoral bonds when it is the business of the Parliament to pass laws? Again, differences of opinion will naturally exist within institutions but since when is the explicit consent of the RBI required for passing laws? These questions are not answered. It is pertinent to mention here that electoral bonds were brought into law through the Finance Bill, 2017.
The Election Commission and Electoral Bonds
Another Huffington Post makes much ado about the fact that the Election Commission raised objections to the concept of electoral bonds. Again, it is perfectly natural for different institutions within a Democracy to have a difference of opinion on a particular matter. However, the power to pass bills lies solely in the domain of the Indian Parliament. The Election Commission of India can have many differences and they are allowed to have differences but only the Indian Parliament has the power to pass laws.
We were told by sources, “Consultations were also held with Election Commission of India regarding their reservations to amendments carried out through the Finance Act. In furtherance of the stated objective to effectuate comprehensive electoral reform, the government in its best judgement has brought the electoral bonds as a strong step forward.”
The Huffington Post also claims that in the Winter Session of Rajya Sabha, 2018, a long time after the Finance Bill, 2017 was passed, the then minister of state for finance, P. Radhakrishnan, ‘lied’ on the floor of the Parliament.
The News Minute, on the other hand, twisted Huffington Post’s report and claimed that Radhakrishnan had ‘lied’ in the Rajya Sabha in 2017, thus painting a completely different picture as the time frame is of great importance in this matter. It also mentioned however that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did file a corrected reply in the Parliament in 2019.
Thus, we see here a pattern of a convoluted distortion of facts. Radhakrishnan’s answer may have been a lie or he might not have had all the information as he became the Minister of State for Finance in September 2018, long after the series of interactions between the Finance Ministry and the ECI. His tenure ended in May 2019. Huffington Post does mention that law and ministry records from October 2018 show that the ECI wrote to the Law and Justice Ministry raising his objection but Radhakrishnan may very well be not aware of it. A ‘lie’ indicates deliberate malice but Huffington Post here has not been able to prove deliberate malice. We were told by sources that the ‘inadvertent’ error occurred due to the unavailability of records at the time which was later corrected.
At its worst, it comes across as sheer incompetence. And it’s not clear why he would ‘lie’ considering the fact that Electoral Bonds already had legal sanction. In fact, if he had filed a correct reply to the question, Huffington Post would have even lesser cause for creating an undue controversy than it already has. Without Radhakrishnan’s incorrect reply, all that Huffington Post has to boast about are the objections of the ECI, which again, are normal in any Democracy.
Concerns regarding Anonymity of Electoral Bonds
Much ado has also been created about the supposed anonymity of the donors of the electoral bonds. Again, the government at no point has attempted to deny the fact that it tried to ensure donor anonymity through the scheme. In fact, the late Arun Jaitley said it explicitly in a blog which Huffington Post did quote a convenient part of in its report.
Arun Jaitley said, “As against a total non-transparency in the present system of cash donations where the donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed, some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the number of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received. How much each donor has distributed to a political party would be known only to the donor.”
One thing that has to be noted here is that the Huffington Post claims that the anonymity is a ‘farce’ and at the same time, is ranting that the funds are ‘untraceable’. It is not entirely certain what the argument is being made here. In fact, its report notes a government notification on the 2nd of January, 2018 that says, “The information furnished by the buyer shall be treated confidentially by the authorised bank and shall not be disclosed to any authority for any purposes, except when demanded by a competent court or upon registration of criminal case by any law enforcement agency.”
The report then notes a press release of the government in April 2018, “This number (a secret alphanumeric code) is not noted by the SBI in any record associated with the buyer or political party depositing a particular electoral bond,” the government claimed. “It is thus not linked to any party transaction when the Bank issues a bond to the buyer. As such the number is not being used nor can be used to track the donation or the buyer.”
With this statement, the Huffington Post comes to the conclusion that the SBI will be able to track who donated the money to whom. However, it’s not that clear. “Electoral bonds will not bear the name of the buyer or payee, but will necessarily need a serial number,” Bank officials said. This was necessary because, without any number to track these bonds, it could very well lead to forgery.
The HuffPo report notes, “Without the serial numbers, the bank explained, there would be no audit trail available for internal control and reconciliation of the bonds by the bank. If courts and law enforcement agencies asked SBI for details on the purchaser of the bonds, the bank would have no answer. Without unique identifiers, the bonds could be forged, and accounting for them would be impossible.” It also notes that the government did inform the SBI that the information is to be kept confidential at all times.
Thus, we see a situation here where the HuffPo is ranting about the complete ‘untraceable’ nature bonds and at the same time, slamming the government for electoral bonds not being completely anonymous. It’s a ‘Head I win, Tails you lose’ situation. HuffPo also insinuates that the CBI and every law agency acts at the behest of the government and that institutions have been compromised, the usual Left-Liberal talking points that are used to corner the government.
Democracy entails that some level of trust is put in the elected government and on the institution that exists in the country. The SBI is advised by the government itself to not disclose details of the transaction to any authority under any circumstances unless they are required to do so by a competent court or a law enforcement agency. It is not entirely anonymous, yes, but it does prevent a huge roadblock in the path of the government to access this information. And also, it is pertinent to mention here that it’s the SBI that is in possession of the data, not the government.
And the pertinent fact to mention here is that HuffPo is not entirely sure either exactly what it is advocating for. They are complaining against ‘untraceable funds’ and lack of complete anonymity at the same time. Quite clearly, their allegations stem from the fact that the SBI has the information when the NDA is in power. And it’s obvious because they are simultaneously against ‘untraceable funds’ and lack of complete anonymity. Someone with integrity cannot hold both positions at the same time.
Another concern that has been raised is the fact that apparently the government illegally opened a window ahead of the state elections. It is pertinent to note here that every political party benefited from it, not only the BJP and no significant complaints were raised about it then. Also, the 2nd January notification, 2018 provided for 4 tranches in a year apart from a special window for the General Elections. The government felt that it was desirable to open a special window for state elections as elections to numerous legislative bodies are scheduled on different days of the year. Hence, a special provision was made for funds to be available to political parties ahead of state elections.
The Spider’s Web
The Huffington Post got its idea that 95% of the funds from the first tranche of electoral bonds went to the BJP. It got this figure, which appears extremely unreliable on the face of it, from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). Now, what is this entity? Who runs it? What authority does it have? As it so happens, ADR is an FCRA NGO that receives foreign funds from some of the most dubious globalist organizations to have ever existed.
As per the government website Darpan, ADR receives a huge amount of funds from the Ford Foundation, Google, HIVOS and the Omidyar network for the explicit purpose of electoral and political reform and ‘election watch’. Now, what is the HIVOS? This organization is intricately linked to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and receives funds from various international governments.
HIVOS’ 2018 annual report says, “The key sources of grant income from governments included the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Global Fund, Swedish International Development Aid, the Millennium Challenge Account, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the US Department of State, the Delegation of the European Union in Indonesia, and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Costa Rica.” Its annual report further says that the key sources of income from non-profit organizations included the Ford Foundation.
At OpIndia, we have extensively documented the manner in which Soros is intimately involved in trying to destabilize democracies abroad. The interference of the Ford Foundation in the internal affairs of a country is well documented. Furthermore, we clearly see that ADR is funded by even foreign governments. It’s not too hard to imagine that it’s perfectly natural for foreign governments to try to undermine Indian sovereignty.
Currently, the Supreme Court of India is hearing a case on electoral bonds. Under such circumstances, the timing of the whole controversy around electoral bonds is indeed extremely intriguing. Ahead of the General Elections, we witnessed the manner in which the Supreme Court of the country was used to interfere with the elections of the country. An attempt was made to portray the ruling party as corrupt without a shred of evidence. Conveniently, in the aftermath of the elections, all the hype around the Rafale Saga faded out completely. If it was indeed such a terrible case of corruption, why is it that the whole drama peaked only ahead of the elections and faded out after it?
It is also pertinent to remember here that a petition was also filed against the Rafale deal in France by an extremely dubious NGO with links George Soros’ Open Society. It also was partners with Misereor and other such organizations which have very real interest in destabilizing India. The NGO and its head, William Bourdon, have been accused of meddling in the internal affairs of countries in Africa and filing corruption charges against the Mauritian President while being closely associated with the latter’s political opponent.
In fact, ADR has much in common with that NGO. It is largely unheard of and George Soros is tied to both these NGOs.George Soros is a very prominent backer of the Democrat party which is currently trying desperately to impeach Donald Trump in a very clear case of an attempted coup by the US ‘Intelligence Community’.
Under the current government, we have seen a very deliberate crackdown on FCRA NGOs. Although much remains to be done on that front, the government has shown its intention on cracking down on them. The crackdown on FCRA NGOs also means that the people who fund them will also have a much lesser influence on the political affairs of India at a time of global chaos. Therefore, it’s no wonder that an FCRA NGO is trying to get back at the government.
The Congress and The Spider’s Web
The Congress, as expected, has gone hammer and tongs against the government on the issue. It’s only natural that the Congress party has picked it up considering the fact that it does not really have a concrete issue to target Narendra Modi. Having said that, however, there are plenty of skeletons in its own closet.
Apart from the Rafale Deal, where it used the petition filed against the dubious French NGO to run a concerted campaign against the BJP, it also has the National Advisory Council (NAC) that functioned under Sonia Gandhi. What was the NAC? Who were its members? Unsurprisingly, there were numerous individuals associated with dubious NGOs on the NAC, which received foreign funds from abroad. Thus, shady foreign organizations did exert undue interference in Indian law-making during the UPA regime. In fact, some of them even wrote the immensely controversial Communal Violence Bill.
More recently, Oxfam, another dubious organization, appealed to the Congress party that it should work closely with the ‘civil society’ in order to counter the BJP government. As we have reported extensively in the past, the ‘civil society’ is a euphemism for a network of extremely shady organizations that seek to undermine Indian sovereignty. Given the Congress party’s history, it’s no surprise if it is working closely with foreign-funded NGOs like the ADR again.
The Real Drama
At the end of the day, it is a series of spurious allegations that hold no ground. Electoral Bonds may not be perfect but they are much better than what we had before. Quite clearly, the Huffington Post is making inane arguments arguing simultaneously for complete anonymity and traceable funds. Both are simultaneously impossible.
Thus, we see the Huffington Post use an unverified data conjured by the ADR, an FCRA NGO funded by Globalist organizations, in order to run a targeted campaign against the NDA government in order to reverse its electoral reforms. Quite clearly, it is Rafale 2.0. On top of it jumps the Congress party which has a history of collaborating with foreign-funded NGOs that interfere with Indian internal affairs.
Throughout the whole saga, the Huffington Post or anyone else has not been able to provide any evidence that the government committed any illegality. The best it has been able to come up with is disagreements between various institutions of the country, which is extremely natural in a Democracy. Ultimately, the law was ratified by the Indian Parliament. The only thing that the Huffington Post has up its sleeve is an incorrect reply, months after the law was ratified and the scheme came into effect. There really is nothing to go on here.
It is quite clearly an attempt to reverse a law passed by the Parliament via the Supreme Court. Given the nature of the organizations involved, we have every reason to believe that this is being pursued with malafide interests. Now, it remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court or the government will cave into such propaganda.