With intention to window-dress this apparent pro-corporate decision the limit of anonymous cash donations to political parties has been reduced from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 by amending Income-Tax Act by Finance Bill, 2017. This lowering of the limit, without putting a cap on the total amount of anonymous cash donations is meaningless and is just political gimmick to push the propaganda of cashless/less cash without any gains in terms of transparency and rooting out of black money from political funding. The parties can now simply claim they got multiple donations of Rs 2,000 instead of a lump sum by just making more anonymous receipts.
A senior officer with the CAG office, quoted in The Telegraph, 23 March 2015, sums up the situation best: “This means, for example, that an infrastructure firm could theoretically pay up to 50 percent of its net profits to a single party as donation without anyone getting wiser as to which party has been paid… this throws open the possibility that an order to build a highway or a railway bridge could be given to a firm and that firm could pay the donation to the party in power which placed the order with it…The beauty is that if this happens, it will be legitimate and no questions can be asked by any ethics committee of Parliament or by any CAG audit.”
It is apparent that all the hue and cry of ‘transparency’ attendant with the demonetization drive does not apply to the political parties whose funding in fact has been made more opaque. Major opposition parties have rightly pointed out the dangerous undemocratic intent of the government in pushing through a range of crucial legislative changes- as many as 40 amendments- through the Finance Bill 2017 passed as a Money bill in the Lok Sabha. And since it is a money bill, this omnibus Finance Bill easily sailed through Parliament without the legislative scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha where the BJP lacks majority. However, on the core issue of Modi government shrewd manipulation in “legalizing” unlimited and anonymous corporate funding for political parties, the same opposition parties have been far less forceful, as most have drank from the same pot. The consequences of these adverse changes on corporate funding of political parties had to be borne by people with likely increase in the grip of corporate clutches over constitutional democratic institutions by controlling parties through funding. The old saying ‘One who pays the Piper calls the tune’ applies. These changes should be strongly resisted by democratic forces by exposing the Modi government’s false claims of bringing transparency, curbing corruption and black money through measures such as ‘demonetisation’ when in reality it is hell-bent to make the process of funding of political parties – which is at core of political corruption – more opaque, non-transparent, unaccountable and without an iota of democratic scrutiny through amendments such as those brought in by the Finance Bill, 2017.