Source: 
Deccan Herald
https://www.deccanherald.com/elections/india/bjp-tilted-level-playing-field-through-electoral-bonds-ed-raids-prashant-bhushan-2987381
Author: 
Chiranjeevi Kulkarni
Date: 
20.04.2024
City: 
Bengaluru
Bhushan said analysis by independent media has shown that the electoral bonds were given to the BJP ostensibly as kickbacks for getting large contracts, to evade cases by the ED, I-T Dept, and the CBI, for changing policies to suit a particular company and even money laundering.

Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, who represented Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) in the case against electoral bonds, said there was no level playing field in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections as the BJP at the Centre has been bolstered by Rs 6,000 crore "kickbacks" through electoral bonds while the accounts of Opposition parties have been frozen and their leaders arrested.

"The BJP has twice as much funds as all the other political parties put together. Even those accounts of political parties have been frozen by the government, their leaders have been arrested. The elections today are totally unbalanced. There is no level playing field," he said, adding that the bonds have contributed to the mess.

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Bhushan said the apex court's "landmark verdict" points to a big scam in the electoral bonds scheme in which the BJP was the biggest beneficiary. Of the Rs 12,769 crore worth electoral bonds encashed by political parties since April 2019, the BJP received Rs 6,060 crore (47 per cent) and most of the remaining amount went to parties in power in different states.

Bhushan said analysis by independent media has shown that the electoral bonds were given to the BJP ostensibly as kickbacks for getting large contracts, to evade cases by the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax and the CBI, for changing policies to suit a particular company and even money laundering.

‘Biggest scam in world’

"Parakala Prabhakar, husband of (Union Minister) Nirmala Sitharaman, calls it the largest scam in the world. You should not judge the scam by the Rs 16,500 crore worth of bonds. Because, for every thousand crore rupees of that electoral bonds, at least 100 times worth of that contract had been given to the companies that gave those donations," Bhushan said.

"For example, Megha Engineering gave Rs 140 crore bonds to the BJP in April (2023). In May (2023), they were given a Rs 14,000 crore contract for a tunnel work by the Maharashtra government controlled by the BJP. For the Rs 16,000 crore bonds, probably Rs 16 lakh crore worth contracts have been influenced by bonds," he said.

In addition, he said, lakhs of crores of rupees which should have been recovered from companies by regulatory and enforcement agencies like enforcement directorate have not been recovered as they paid "kickbacks" through bonds.

Need SIT probe

Bhushan said an independent agency should probe the scam. "Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is a presumption that if your file is pending with a particular government and if thereafter, you give some money to that government, then it is presumed to be a kickback. We also need to find out the people in the government, companies and agencies involved in the conspiracy. We need an independent agency constituted by the Supreme Court to probe this. We have filed a petition seeking a special investigation team. Hopefully it will come up for hearing soon," he said.

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