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Desperate Narendra Modi governmnet trying to use SBI to bulldoze Supreme Court judgment on electoral bonds scheme: Congress

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday attacked the Centre over the State Bank of India moving the Supreme Court to seek more time to disclose electoral bond details, alleging that the Modi government is using the country’s largest bank as a shield to hide its “dubious dealings”.

The State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension till June 30 to disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties. In its verdict last month, the top court directed SBI to furnish the details to the Election Commission of India by March 6.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said the party’s position on the electoral bonds scheme is that it is “opaque, undemocratic and destroyed the level playing field”.

“The (Narendra) Modi government is using the largest bank of our country as a shield to hide its dubious dealings through electoral bonds,” he said.

No less than the Supreme Court of India had struck down the Modi government’s “black money conversion scheme” of electoral bonds, holding it “unconstitutional”, “violative of RTI” and “illegal” and asked SBI to furnish donor details by March 6, he said.

But the BJP wants it to be done after the Lok Sabha elections by June 30, Kharge said, adding that the tenure of the Lok Sabha will end on June 16.

Alleging that the BJP was the main beneficiary of the “fraudulent” electoral bonds scheme, Kharge said, “Isn’t the government conveniently hiding the BJP’s shady dealings where contracts of highways, ports, airports, power plants etc were handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cronies in lieu of these opaque electoral bonds?”

“Experts say that the 44,434 automated data entries of donors can be divulged and matched in just 24 hours. Why does SBI then need four more months to collate this information?” he said.

He alleged, “The Congress was crystal clear that the electoral bonds scheme was opaque, undemocratic and destroyed the level playing field. But the Modi government, PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) and the FM (finance ministry) bulldozed every institution — RBI, Election Commission, Parliament and the opposition to fill the BJP’s coffers.”

“Now a desperate Modi government, clutching on straws, is trying to use SBI to bulldoze the Supreme Court’s judgment!” he said.

Supriya Shrinate, a Congress spokesperson, said during a press conference at the AICC headquarters that the Supreme Court’s historic decision was enthusiastically welcomed by the entire country and hailed as the most decisive step against the use of black money in elections and the illegal participation of capitalists in power.

“The ruling BJP, which is the single-largest beneficiary of the electoral bonds scheme, was uneasy after the Supreme Court decision. All political parties put together received more than Rs 12,000 crore till last fiscal since the introduction of the electoral bonds scheme in 2017. The BJP alone got Rs 6,566.11 crore, which is 55 per cent of all electoral bonds, while the Congress got a measly 9 per cent at Rs 1,123.29 crore,” Shrinate said.

She claimed that the BJP has been “afraid” that as soon as the information about its donor friends becomes public, its “unholy nexus with select corporates” will be exposed.

“It was apprehensive that details will be out regarding who was donating, what he got in return, which laws were made for their benefit, whether investigations were stopped against those who donated, whether threats of investigation were made to collect donations forcibly,” Shrinate said.

Citing media reports, she alleged that 30 companies that donated nearly Rs 335 crore to the BJP between 2018 and 2023 faced action by agencies during that period.

“The BJP and the Modi government put pressure on the State Bank of India not to share the information,” she said.

Shrinate questioned why the country’s largest and fully computerised bank needs five months to provide information about electoral bonds when complete information can be extracted in five minutes with one click.

“Why did the State Bank (of India) ask for more time to provide information only a day before the last date for providing the information? Did it also take a month to calculate exactly how much time it would take?” she said.

SBI, which operates 48 crore accounts, 66,000 ATMs and 23,000 branches, needs five months to provide information about only 22,217 electoral bonds, she said.

The question arises whether people of the country have the right to get the correct information before the Lok Sabha elections and take the right decision during voting, she asked.

Shrinate alleged that SBI has sought time before the Supreme Court not to give the information but to hide the BJP’s “misdeeds”.

“But people of the country now understand fully well how the truth is being hidden by putting pressure on government agencies or institutions,” Shrinate said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday slammed the government over the issue, terming it a “last-ditch attempt” before the Lok Sabha polls to hide Modi’s “real face”.

In a landmark judgment that delivered a big blow to the government, the Supreme Court on February 15 annulled the electoral bonds scheme for political funding, saying it violated the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to information.

A five-judge Constitution bench directed that SBI must disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties. The information should include the date of encashment and the denomination of the bonds and be submitted to the poll panel by March 6.

Source: Press Trust of India

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