The Congress on Thursday called for an all-party meeting to discuss electoral reforms and demanded that a comprehensive law be brought in Parliament in this regard.
The opposition party also raised strong objections to the amendments in the Income Tax Act granting unbridled powers to tax officials, alleging government can unleash “tax terrorism” against those opposing it including political rivals.
Opposing amendments made in the Representation of People Act as part of the Finance Bill, party spokesperson Rajeev Gowda said the government has put an end to transparency in electoral funding by bringing electoral bonds and demanded holding of wider discussions in an all-party meet.
“It is time the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister put together a committee, bring together an all-party meeting which are focused on electoral reforms.
“Time has come for cleaner and transparent political funding and for all these measures to be discussed, debated, analysed and then crystallised in the form of transparent Political Funding Bill that is brought in, debated and voted on in both Houses of Parliament,” he told reporters.
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He termed the present amendments as part of the Finance Bill as “a very very sad and negative development” in the direction of election funding and transparency.
He said these measures were brought in without extensive and intensive consultation with all political parties.
Gowda noted that the Finance Bill was used as a vehicle to bring in a variety of measures which should not have been in the Bill. “Many of these were antithetical and detrimental to India’s democratic functioning,” he said.
He said government has granted power to itself “to arm-twist individual taxpayers, political opponents and businesses using the Finance Bill as subterfuge to try and push through these kinds of very important and far reaching impactful changes on electoral financing and the possibilities of active political competition,” he said.
Noting that only one side is going to be favoured with money with present changes in law, “you are going to see an un-level playing field. That is not what competitive elections are all about. That is not what a healthy democracy requires”.
“They have opened the floodgates for the corporate takeover of political parties. Government has gotten rid of the disclosure. Today transparency has gone,” he said.
By amending Companies Act, he said the limits on corporate donation has been removed and corporates can buy electoral bonds and give them anonymously.
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The Congress leader feared that with transparency gone, BJP will be cornering all the funds through electoral bonds without any of the others being the wiser for who gave that money to the party in government.
To a question, Gowda said the Congress is asking for an all-party set of consultation, the creation of a new Bill that changes the whole process of how political parties are funded, how elections are funded and essentially would want a National Election Fund and possible state funding of elections.
“All these are to be brought together in a comprehensive Bill in a piece of legislation. So, this is not something for confrontation, this is something for consultation, this is something for creation of consensus and all of us have very important suggestions to make,” he said.