Arun Jaitley, quite dramatically, announced some reforms on political funding in his budget speech today.
Among the new measures announced include: the maximum cash donations to political parties has been capped at Rs 2,000 from one source. The original amount was Rs 20,000. Jaitley proposed the creation of electoral bonds that donors can purchase by making digital payments. The bonds will be redeemable only in registered accounts held by political parties.
But according to Jagdeep Chhokar, from the Association of Democratic Reforms a non-governmental organization which works on electoral and political reform, these reforms are of "no consequence".
The cap of Rs 2,000 on donations from one source means very little too, Chokhar said.
"Earlier parties would get donations of Rs 19,999 each from unlimited sources, now they will get donations of Rs 1999. That's the only difference," Chhokar told ScoopWhoop News. Donations below 20,000 rupees were not required to be reported to the ECI (Sec 29C, sub-section. Political parties are essentially were not required to disclose details of those donating below 20,000 rupees.
Yogendra Yadav, psephologist and former member of AAP, had something similar to say on Twitter.
Reducing cash limit for political funding from Rs 20K to Rs 2K is meaningless. Because there is no limit in number of persons. # Budget2017— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) February 1, 2017
The concept of electoral bonds that Jaitley floated is also seen being of little consequence.
"How will these bonds make anything more transparent. I have a feeling that it's on the lines of electoral trusts scheme," Chhokar said.
The system of electoral trusts, which was introduced in January 2013, allowed private firms to donate money to political parties without any restriction—in exchange for disclosing what they have donated.
Chhokar also pointed out that Jaitley's announcement that political parties can now receive donations in cheque and digital modes, is also redundant.
"Is he suggesting that parties didn't receive donations through cheques before? Here again people will find a way to bypass the law by giving cheques of Rs 1999 through different accounts. The only difference will be that they will need to get more people involved in the scheme," Chhokar said.