What Nirmala Sitharaman said on top electoral bond donors, probe agency raids

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, speaking at India Today Conclave 2024, today said the links between probe agency raids and electoral bonds were mere 'assumptions'.
What Nirmala Sitharaman said on top electoral bond donors, probe agency raids
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As the electoral bonds data released by the Election Commission (EC) revealed that at least 15 out of the top 30 companies that donated to political parties faced action from probe agencies, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the narrative of a link between the raids and donations was based on "assumptions".

Sitharaman also said that the previous system of donations to political parties was "completely imperfect". This was a reference to the electoral trusts scheme, which was introduced by the UPA government in 2013.

"I think you've based yourself on huge assumptions, that the money was given after the Enforcement Directorate raid happened," Sitharaman said, commenting on a question about the data released.

"For all you know, the money was given earlier, and despite that, we went knocking at their doors," the Union Minister said.

"What if the companies gave the money, and after that, we still went and knocked at their doors through the Enforcement Directorate? That's an assumption that the ED went and knocked at their doors, they wanted to save themselves, and therefore they came up with the funds," the Finance Minister said.

"The second assumption in that itself is, are you sure they gave it to the BJP? They probably gave it to the regional parties."

"The government has given and the SBI has done its job as per the orders given by the Supreme Court," she said.

On Friday, the Supreme Court said the State Bank of India should have disclosed the unique alpha-numeric numbers of the electoral bonds received by political parties and sought the bank's response. Meanwhile, Sitharaman said, "The case is still in court, the verdict has come and the State Bank of India will submit what it has to."

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What Nirmala Sitharaman said on top electoral bond donors, probe agency raids

"But, were the earlier systems 100 per cent perfect?" the Finance Minister asked.

"Let us just recall what my predecessor (former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley), when he brought these electoral bonds, said, 'this is better than the previous systems as the money is going from accounts to party's account'," she said.

"It's not a perfect system, but we have moved from a system where everyone did what they want to do," the Finance Minister said, adding, "A system which was not perfect, from a system which was completely imperfect, was brought in."

The electoral bonds were introduced by the government on January 28, 2017. The objective was to facilitate transparent political funding. The bonds, issued exclusively by SBI, served as a designated financial instrument that offered individuals and corporate entities the opportunity to contribute funds to political parties discreetly, as those bonds had no identification of the donor and the political party to which they were issued.

Electoral bonds were available in denominations of Rs 1,000 and could be acquired from SBI branches during specific periods stipulated by the government. Political parties could then redeem those bonds through their designated accounts within a prescribed timeframe.

The India Today Conclave 2024, on Friday and Saturday, will bring together visionaries, leaders, and luminaries from across the globe under one roof to delve into the essence of 'Brand Bharat: An Assertive Nation in an Uncertain World'.

Source: India Today

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