Interview: Electoral bonds scheme is ‘ModiGate’, says Economist, author Parakala Prabhakar

The seriousness of this (issue) has percolated to such an extent and so fast that the BJP has lost control over the narrative, Parakala Prabhakar says.

BySouth First Desk

Published Mar 28, 2024 | 6:00 PMUpdatedMar 28, 2024 | 6:12 PM

Economist and author Parakala Prabhakar. (South First)

Noted political economist, author and social commentator Parakala Prabhakar describes the electoral bonds scheme as a scam benefitting the BJP. He believes people will “punish BJP” electorally over “ModiGate”.

In an exclusive conversation with South First, Prabhakar seeks a judicial inquiry into the alleged scam.

He claims the ruling party at the Centre will receive “severe punishment from the people” in the coming general elections.

He feels the BJP stands fully exposed for its machinations in benefitting the most from the bonds scheme and has no credible defence. “They have lost the plot, ” he says.

Related: Supreme Court deems Electoral bonds unconstitutional

Edited excerpts from our Q&A telephonic session with Parakala Prabhakar:

Q: Why do you say the electoral bonds scheme is a scam?

A: It lacks transparency. When petitions in the court challenged it, the government and the court—both of them—ducked.

When it came to the government saying something about it in court, the government made the highest law officer say that the people are not entitled to know how the political parties are funded.

The second thing is that the court had said it was not constitutional and asked the SBI to submit the details to the Election Commission and asked the Commission to make the entire data public, the efforts made by the government and, of course, the SBI to get out of it, and postpone it until after the elections. Somehow, they did not want to divulge it to the people.

Even after the court said it had to submit it, the SBI came up with excuses. They really worked hard and argued hard to avoid this disclosure.

So, that is the impression: there is a lot that the government wants to hide. And after that, whatever the government submitted was incomplete. They did not submit the details for the first year.

Putting one and one together, many independent people and media houses, not the so-called mainstream media but the alternative media, have done much commendable work.

And now we know how bonds were bought, how firms were awarded contracts, and how bonds were bought after they were raided and let off the hook.

These things are now very clear. A pattern is emerging: firms with little profit buy electoral bonds over their profit.

Companies which were registered just a couple of years ago are buying vast amounts of electoral bonds.

These things will tell you a lot is going on that the government wants to hide, and the State Bank of India, on government instructions, wants to hide.

These things are executive decisions — giving a contract, raiding or not raiding.

When things have come into the open now—how a bank was able to get out of its problem of extending the leadership of a particular person and the shareholding patterns and all that—that shows that an institution like the RBI, which has to be fiercely independent of the government—it is in charge of our entire financial, monetary, and banking systems—even an institution like that is compelled to compromise.

That is why I say it is the biggest scam not only in India but also in the world.

Related: BJP is biggest beneficiary of electoral bonds

Q:  What is your take on the BJP being the biggest receiver of all political funding, including electoral bonds?

A: The whole thing will give the impression, and most probably that is true, that the BJP used its position in power and control over enforcement agencies like the Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, and others, and its clout over the Reserve Bank of India, to extract money from business persons, business houses, and corporates.

All this (money) is through electoral bonds, and how much is outside of electoral bonds?

And even in the Delhi liquor scam, things are coming out in the open now.

There are accused who later turned approvers; that person happens to be from a Hyderabad-based company, donates, his firm buys electoral bonds, gets bail, and then again electoral bonds are given to the BJP.

All these things will show that it is BJP using its executive position, being in power, to the fullest extent to threaten, manipulate and coerce business houses for donations.

Q: Will calling the electoral bonds scheme a laundering tool be right?

A: I would call this a ModiGate. It is non-transparent, underhand, quid pro quo, coercion-involved, and agencies were deployed.

You can see a clear pattern: raid and payment, payment and a contract, payment and extension of bank directorship, not making it necessary to dilute the shareholding pattern, and things like that. These are all very apparent now.

That is the reason why the government did not want these details to come out.

Q: Some argue that stopping the electoral bonds scheme has simply removed the option of clean political funding. Comment?

A: One can always pay by cheque. Who is stopping? If anybody is concerned about accountability and that there should not be any cash transactions, there could be a law that this (information) should be in the public domain.

We want to know how a political party contests elections and puts up banners, flags, and canvasses for the party and candidates. We want to know how they get the money to do this. What is wrong with that?

Related: Complete details of electoral bond donors, parties, unique numbers

Q: Would you seek a SIT probe into a possible financial probe via electoral bonds?

A: I think that there should be an independent judicial inquiry into the whole thing. The country has to go to the bottom of the entire thing. It could be a parliamentary committee (probing the matter), but I would prefer a judicial inquiry.

Q: Will this have an impact on the general elections?

A: I think that, on this account, the present ruling party will face severe punishment from the people.

Because of this, there will not be a fight between the BJP-led alliance and the opposition alliance.

It is no longer a fight between the BJP and other political parties.

It is now a fight between the BJP and the people of India.

The seriousness of this issue has percolated to such an extent and so fast that the BJP has lost control over the narrative. They are just not able to put up any defence, let alone a credible defence.

Prominent members of the Cabinet are trying to absolve themselves, saying they did not get a much larger amount than other parties.

That is the kind of lame defence they are resorting to. This means they have lost the plot.

(As told to and edited by VVP Sharma)