Karnataka will be the first state to go to polls, after the introduction of electoral bonds. More than Rs 222 crore worth of electoral bonds were purchased during first 10 days of their introduction, and a large part of this is expected to be spent on the ongoing election campaign in Karnataka, as a victory in Karnataka is expected to change the fortunes of the parties in the upcoming 2019 general elections.

However, ahead of the polls, political parties in Karnataka, except for the Bharatiya Janata Party, are wary of these electoral bonds. They allege, with the banking system coming under the finance ministry, the government gets access to the information on these bonds, which can be used to arm-twist their donors.

An investigation by KhabarLive, has given them more reason to be skeptical about these bonds. The report has revealed that unlike the government’s claim of these bonds being anonymous, a hidden alpha-numerical code, visible only when inspected at a forensic lab, helps the government track the source of the bond.

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The Congress’ communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala, who is currently in Bengaluru, said KhabarLive’s investigation exposes the BJP’s “DNA of snooping”.

The Congress has objected to the claims of anonymity in the electoral bonds, made by the BJP. A lion’s share of these donations have gone to the BJP, which makes it clear that bonds are an official channel for them to convert their black money into white. The revelation also proves that surveillance has been a part of their (BJP’s) DNA.

Professor Rajeev Gowda, an MP and head of Congress’ research wing, further added that due to the banking system coming under the control of the finance ministry, details of the donors will be easily available for the ruling party.

“The government has a disproportionate access to information on these transactions. They can use this information to browbeat people who support their opponents. This is all part of the elaborate charade electoral bond is, more than providing transparency, electoral bonds are a mechanism for the ruling party to extort money and to ensure no other party gets resources”, Gowda said.

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When asked whether the revelation about the hidden numbers make the Congress wary of accepting electoral bonds, he said that the party would investigate into these allegations.

“It was not so long ago that the investors of a media house that criticised the central government, received threat calls from the government. So, if the details of the donors are available to the government, it is only a matter of time before they get calls from the offices of power”, he added.

Political scientist Sandeep Shastri pointed out that although the electoral bonds are yet to become the main source of funding for the parties in the state, the revelation of the bonds being secretly numbered, could prevent them from becoming popular.

“Earlier, only party treasurers knew from where and how much money came to the party. The bonds were introduced to bring more accountability, but these bonds being tracked goes against the purpose”, he said.

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A senior BJP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said that the party’s central leadership takes care of the funding through electoral bonds and the state leadership has little role to play.

He also added that donations through electoral bonds have been limited so far in Karnataka. “The BJP is attempting to bring transparency and remove lobbying from the large corporates”, he said.

He refused to comment on the hidden alpha-numerical trackers on the bonds citing lack of information on the subject. However, he added that the party will be accepting more funds through these bonds in the future.

A senior Janata Dal (Secular) leader claimed that limited funds have come to the party through bonds. He further added that the overarching influences the ruling party has over the details of these bonds will result in the failure of this project in the future. “These electoral bonds are anything but transparent”, said the leader. #KhabarLive


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