Funding controversy: Why just AAP? BJP and Congress must also be probed
AVAM has provided no proof of Aam Aadmi Party being complicit in a "scam", let alone conducting money laundering itself.
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Read the counter view here: Funding controversy: Kejriwal and AAP have come out tainted
Pre-election times are exciting. You discover fascinating things about political entities and their "real faces". AAP Volunteers Action Manch (AVAM), a group of people who had been in AAP, are now exposing the "honest party" for money laundering, "Hawala at midnight" and more; and it is shocking everyone - even those who barely batted an eyelid over the Delhi High Court verdict on foreign funding to the BJP and the Congress. It seems not just AAP but even its residue left in people makes them more credible than the courts of the country. The BJP leaders were so convinced by AVAM's integrity that they disregarded the Modi government's own "clean chit" to AAP funds that was given after these supposedly suspicious transactions happened.
This I had to see, particularly considering how BJP which is normally paranoid of NGOs misunderstood them for an NGO and still believed them on funding.
So I tried to find out about the issue.
The crux of the issue appears to be four donations made to Aam Aadmi Party on the 5th of April 2014 with transaction IDs HO414297743, HO414297724, HO414297753 and HO414297769.
These were by four companies, viz Goldmine Buildcon Private Limited, Infolance Software Solutions Limited, Skyline Metal and Alloys Private Limited and Sunvision Agencies Private Limited, which have not shown profits as legally required in order to be able to make political donations. At the same time, the net worth of all the companies is above a crore, so while they may not have made a profit and violated the law on being allowed to donate, the allegation of "laundering" cannot be established as an absence of funds.
Are the donations legal? Not for the companies, for sure. I am not aware of any legal issue for political parties to accept donations made by Indian companies, or a requirement for them to inspect the companies for financial compliance. I do not believe any party in India does that, so it is unclear why AAP alone is being singled out for this. That said, I don't think this is a coincidence. For an "apolitical" entity, AVAM sure chose a political muhurat. It could be, as some of its supporters claim, that they have always been saying this, but that the media only pays attention before election, but the last time I checked, press conferences were not called by the media.
So whether this expose means the guilt of Aam Aadmi Party or someone else, one thing is clear: it should be investigated. Indeed, funds of all parties should be investigated in order to identify how much of an aberration this situation is. Further, the companies that made the donations clearly acted in an illegal manner and the companies and specifically the funds donated must be investigated.
In my view, it is an issue of a party creating an astronomical perception about its corruption-free influence which it does not and cannot deliver rather than an issue of "illegal funding". It is unclear what the legal status is on receiving donations from an illegal entity. The donations themselves do not appear to violate laws on receiving donations that are laid out for parties and it is unclear whether AAP's due diligence referred to vetting for the legal status with respect to the party alone or vetting for the legal status of donors - which is a near impossible expectation from any entity. Not even the Income Tax Department can guarantee it doesn't collect tax from criminals.
AVAM has provided no proof of Aam Aadmi Party being complicit in a "scam", let alone conducting money laundering itself. All the proof provided is transactions that have happened through a bank and thus it cannot be called black money either. No motive for AAP to do such a thing has been provided: AAP could simply accept a two crore donation without having to go through a circus of duplicate donations. Nor would someone engaging in a criminal fudge do it with means as obvious as identical donations made at the same time with ownership that can be traced to the same people - unless the purpose of the donations was to stand out to someone examining the list.
This last point becomes significant given that April 5, 2014 is just a week after March 29, 2014. And what happened on March 29, 2014? A landmark verdict by the Delhi High Court indicted the Bhartiya Janata Party and Congress Party of receiving foreign funds in violation of provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Is it not amazing that the sole exposes of "illegal funding" not just happen to be accusations of foreign funding, but happen a week after this verdict on a PIL filed by Association for Democratic Reforms through Prashant Bhushan?