On 4th January, 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitly announced details of a proposed scheme of issuing Electoral Bonds for financing political parties.
Persons and companies wishing to donate money to a political party through Electoral Bonds can purchase such bonds from specified branches of the State Bank of India and give it to the political party of their choice. The bonds will be in multiples of Rs 1000, 10,000, 1 lakh, 10 lakh and 1 crore. These bonds will have a life of 15 days from the date of purchase. The party receiving the Electoral Bond must deposit it in its Bank account. Only those parties will be eligible for donations through electoral bonds which received at least 1% of the votes in the last general elections to the Lok Sabha or State assembly.
In sum, what the Electoral Bonds Scheme will achieve is to make it possible for individual capitalists and companies to contribute large sums of money to their favoured political parties legally and without involving cash. As before, who gave how much to which party will remain hidden from public view.
The Finance Minister claims that this is a move to “clean up” political and electoral funding in the country. Representatives of various opposition parties are objecting to the fact that the identity of the donors and recipients of electoral bonds will remain secret. Both sides are distorting reality and misleading
The central government and its ministers are misleading the public by focusing on cash payments, as if “black money” is the main problem with the political process and party funding. The opposition is clamouring for “transparency” of party funding, as if the main problem is the lack of knowledge about who gave how much money to which party.
The main problem with the political process is that it keeps people out of power and reduces them to voting cattle. The main problem with political funding is that extremely unequal money power plays a major role in determining the outcome of elections. Neither of these problems is being addressed by the introduction of Electoral Bonds.
Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists are going to continue to finance the campaigns of BJP, Congress and other parties of their choice and ensure that only such parties are entrusted with executive power. The financial disadvantages as well as official discrimination against smaller parties and “independent” candidates will continue and become even worse.
The problem of the Indian electoral system is not whether BJP, Congress and other parties of the ruling class are financed by “white money” or “black money”. Nor is the problem the lack of knowledge about who gave how much money to which party. The issue that needs to be addressed is the domination of the capitalist monopolies and their use of money and media power to ensure electoral outcomes in favour of their trusted political parties and politicians.
There is need for changes in the political process and electoral system that will ensure that people can govern themselves. Instead of political parties coming to power through elections to rule in the name of people, the role of political parties must be to enable the people to govern themselves.
The executive must be accountable to the legislature. The legislature must be accountable to the electorate. The electorate must not hand over all powers to those elected once elections are over. It must retain the main power. This includes the power to demand rendering of periodic accounts by the elected representative, and the right to recall a representative whose work is unsatisfactory. It must include the right to initiate legislation. The electorate must be able to exercise these powers through an elected Constituency Committee in each constituency.
The right to select candidates before election must belong to the electorate of the constituency. All such candidates must be given equal opportunity to put forward their views before the electorate.
The State must finance the election process. No candidate, political party, or any private entity must be permitted to spend money on the elections.
There is fierce struggle raging in our country over the form and content of democracy. The capitalist are interested in the continuation of the present system and process which legitimises their rule over the masses of workers and peasants. It is in the interests of the working class to champion a system in which people can govern themselves.