Today, when I sat down to write this article, I remembered April 7, 2014. It was a historical day because BJP’s manifesto for General Elections was released on this day. Like millions of others, I also apprehended that this time around we truly had a party we could depend on. What this optimism accounted for was reflected in their manifesto. But at the same time, this optimism came along with an inherent fear. For me, the sense of fear was greater than that of optimism. I congratulate those voters who didn’t fall prey to fake promises. Readers, I can be a staunch critic of the government. And believe me, if you analyze the discourse neutrally keeping your bias aside, you will definitely agree with me.
We cannot deny that the mandate of the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections was generated in the way to highlight BJP’S firm stand against corruption and the promise of ₹15,00,000 in every bank account. They strongly opposed the foreign funding of political parties.
The Representation of People’s Act, 1951 bars political parties to accept funds from foreign companies. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 also bans overseas corporations from funding “political parties, candidates for elections, government servants and employees”. In the year 2010, BJP and INC received funds from a subsidiary of Vedanta Limited, a London-based company. Delhi High Court, on March 29, 2014, found both the parties guilty of a violation of FCRA and directed Election Commission and Govt. to take serious actions against the parties.
Sadly, EC citing some reasons transferred its responsibility to the Ministry of Home Affairs in utter disregard for the principle of natural justice “Nemo iudex in causa sua”. In May 2014, Indian governance was entrusted to Modi with the largest mandate since 1984. So, he was given the responsibility of the nation’s citizens whose daily lives are governed largely by “faith”. Did he execute his responsibility? Of course, he did, but not for the welfare of the people. However, the expectations of corporates and businessmen were seriously taken care of. How? Let us now discuss in detail. The Finance Bills that came up in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 have sufficient proof for this.
The Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2016 made the receiving of funds from foreign companies easier. The FCRA, 1976 defines “Foreign Firm” as a company- Indian or Foreign registered abroad or with subsidiaries abroad. Now, a company to come within the ambit of “Foreign Company” must at least have 50% shareholding of a foreign company. This act also came with a six years retrospective effect, thus making the donations since 2010 legal.
In 2017, NDA government brought up the Finance Bill (now an act) and a “money bill” without the interference of Rajya Sabha.“ Electoral Bonds” were introduced. However, through this, donors and political parties were guaranteed anonymity. In spite of ₹2000 limit, there could be repeated donations and a scope for the creation of “shell companies”. Before these amendments, a company could have contributed up to 7.5% of the average of its net profits of the last three FYs to a party. Moreover, a company was bound to disclose in P&L accounts, the amount along with the name of the political party. The enactment removed the upper limit and the need for companies to disclose the names of donor parties.
Finally, in the Finance Bill, 2018, the FCRA was further amended. This attributed legality to the donations received by the political parties from foreign companies with a 42 years retrospective effect. Any donation made after August 5, 1976, which was otherwise “illegal” is now “legal”. Thus, the scope for scrutiny has also come to an end.
— Ankit Lal (@AnkitLal) March 20, 2018
March 22, 2017, and March 13, 2018, are the two dates that mark legalisation of corruption in our country by political parties. It is not an unknown fact that such fundings come from MNCs and corporations in consideration of maximum favourable returns from the government.
Why are such enactments a matter of concern for us? There will be implications from the grass root to the apex level when it comes to governance. First of all, the contracts will be diverted to the MNCs through secret funding. Secondly, neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism may influence our country in an adverse way. It may create hostile blocks in India. There may be a proxy war-like situation in the country like Syria. Thirdly, external influence on the election process could very well disrupt or alter the true mandate of people. Lastly, owing to the untrustworthy nature of our banking system, a lot of black money is bound to creep into the Indian economy.
The most critical attribute of the situation is the silence of mainstream media on such a grave issue. Inadequacy in transparency in the funding of political parties should worry us all. Ideally, it is not the way political parties are supposed to function in a democracy and only adds to the opaqueness of election funding, something that goes against the promises of Modi. Moreover, no other party opposed it, as they all drink from the same glass.
BJP is the same party that had cancelled licenses for 20,000 NGOs in 2016 for violating FCRA regulations, had demonetized 86% of notes for public accountability and had introduced GST. But when it comes to government accountability, it goes scot-free for accepting illegal foreign donations. These are issues that citizens can’t even question as political parties don’t come within the ambit of RTI.
Earlier, Modi had referred to many of his naysayers as agents of Naxalites, ISI, Pakistan and CIA. But as per the report of an NGO; Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR): BJP got 85% of the corporate donations in 2016-17. Moreover, no Lokpal has been appointed yet, as was promised in the manifesto. Thus, it is now our turn to ask Modi the difficult questions. On account of people who have suffered a lot, I would like to quote, “लहर की प्यास पर पहरे बिठाए जाते हैं, समंदरों की तलाशी कोई नहीं लेता” (we are looking at the effect but not at the real issue and cause).