Hide and seek in new India; nation seeks, Modi hides: Cong's dig over electoral bonds issue

Congress accuses Modi of hiding corporate donors as SBI seeks more time on electoral bonds
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi | The Congress hit out at the Centre on Thursday over the State Bank of India (SBI) seeking more time from the Supreme Court to disclose details of electoral bonds and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "absolutely terrified" of revealing his corporate donors to people.

The SBI moved the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking an extension till June 30 to disclose the details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties.

In its verdict last month, the top court directed the bank to furnish the details to the Election Commission (EC) by March 6.

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh hit out at the government, saying, "Hide and seek in New India: Nation seeks, Modi hides!" "The Pradhan Mantri Chanda Chipao Yojana, implemented by the SBI, is built on lies," he said on X.

The Supreme Court had asked the SBI to provide the details of the electoral bond donors and recipients within three weeks, the former Union minister noted.

The SBI has asked the apex court for time until June 30, "conveniently timed for after the upcoming Lok Sabha elections", he said.

"The SBI's excuse was that its data on sale and encashment of electoral bonds is decoupled to maintain anonymity. According to the SBI, it would take months to match the buyers of the 22,217 electoral bonds issued since 2019 with the beneficiary parties," Ramesh added.

"However, we know that each electoral bond was sold with two conditions - 1. Detailed Know Your Customer (KYC) exercise by the SBI branches to identify the buyer 2. Hidden serial numbers on the bonds," the Congress leader pointed out.

The SBI, therefore, definitely has the data of both the donors and the recipient political parties, he asserted.

"In fact, the Finance Ministry is on record having noted in 2017 that 'The records of the purchaser are always available in the banking channel and may be retrieved as and when required by enforcement agencies'. What has changed between now and then?" Ramesh asked.

"We also know for a fact that in 2018, when a political party tried to encash some electoral bonds that had expired, the SBI sought permission from the Finance Ministry and moved with alacrity to enable the encashment of these bonds," he said.

On a very short-time scale, the bank was able to identify the number and date of purchase of those expired bonds, he added.

As a retired finance and economics affairs secretary in the Modi government has noted, the SBI has come up with the "lamest excuse" to avoid having to publish the details of the bond donors before the Lok Sabha polls, he said.

"The truth is that the Prime Minister is absolutely terrified of revealing his corporate donors to the people of India. The man who famously said 'Na Khaunga, Na Khaane Dunga' is now insisting on 'Na Bataunga, Na Dikhaunga'," Ramesh alleged.

The Congress slammed the BJP-led Centre on Tuesday over the SBI moving the top court, alleging that the Modi government is using the country's largest bank as a shield to hide its "dubious dealings".

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.

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