Over the last week or so those watching TV news got to know that Parliament was in a deadlock. While the din continued, the government managed to pass 21 amendments to the Finance Bill 2018. Among these is an amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation (FCRA) Act, 2010, that bans overseas corporations from funding political parties.
The Representation of People's Act, which lays down the rules for elections, bars political parties from accepting foreign funds. The BJP government had through Finance Bill 2016 amended the FCRA to make it easier for parties to accept foreign funds. Now, it has amended it further to do away with the scope for scrutiny of a political party's funding since 1976.
There was no debate over this crucial piece of legislation. Political parties did not discuss it and nobody seems to be complaining that this has happened. The Opposition, including the Congress, has so far not demanded its repeal.
Finance Act 2017 did away with the limits and disclosure requirements put on companies' donations to parties. Earlier, a company could contribute only up to 7.5 per cent of its last three years' average net profit to political parties and it had to disclose the name of the political party and the amounts donated to them in its books.
Besides this, it also notified issuance of electoral bonds through which contributions could be made to political parties and capped cash donations to political parties at Rs 2,000.
Corporate bonds will prove a boon for the ruling party and also bigger parties such as the Congress, who can safely accept money from any source without disclosing it to the public. Quite obviously then, no party is complaining about these developments.
This inadequate transparency in the funding of political parties should worry us all. Our banking system is already not trustworthy so it is only likely that this system will push in a lot of black money into the system.
But the big question is who will bell the cat when all political parties find it convenient to keep the funding system opaque.