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Modi’s principal troubleshooter Amit Shah makes Congress and Opposition speechless on electoral bonds, says Dr Chandra

Revealing why no party wants to delve deep into the issue of political funding prior to 2019, Dr Jagdeesh Chandra stresses that Opposition parties tried to corner the BJP over the electoral bond issue. However, Amit Shah turned the tables on them as details were revealed that the Opposition was, in fact, a bigger beneficiary than the BJP of the scheme. Dr Chandra reveals why there was a divide in the SC Bar Association on the matter, why ED action on some of the donors could not tarnish BJP’s image in people’s eyes, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s take on the matter, and the role played by the Election Commission and SBI. Excerpts... (Part II)

  • Why is no one interested in knowing the details about the funds received prior to March 14, 2019?
    Dr Jagdeesh Chandra:
    There are two reasons for it. Firstly, no one wants to throw more stones in the mud. As of now, both donors and political parties are scared that this controversy has brought an unnecessary bad name to them. Secondly, they had targeted BJP, but all of them came under fire while the BJP came out unscathed. Look at the arguments BJP has given, and they are overconfident on this issue, hence questioning other parties and their leaders over it. Amit Shah asked Rahul Gandhi where his party got Rs 1600 crore in funding.
  • Why did the Supreme Court reject the demand to give information about bonds prior to March, 2019?
    Supreme Court might have thought about how deep will people dig and if SC has this one job only. So it said that the court has taken a conscience decision not to open this case more than the said date. And the topic ends there itself.
  • Out of the bonds worth Rs 20,000 crore, BJP got bonds worth Rs 6,300 crore and the remaining went to other political parties. However, fingers were raised only on BJP. Why was it so?
    This was the interesting part of the whole episode that a perception was being created. Even Amit Shah pointed that out. Shah said that his party has 303 members in the house and his party received Rs 6,300 crore and the remaining 242 members of other parties received around Rs 14,000 crore, so who is the real beneficiary of this scheme? He also threw an open challenge that he is ready to debate or answer questions if anyone wants to do so. So in the beginning, a perception of sorts was created, but that perception failed to gain friction. In the beginning, BJP leaders also felt a little pressure on the issue, but when they looked at the facts and when Amit Shah and other teams of the BJP worked through it, they realised that their party was on a better footing as compared to others. Also, the general public too understood that BJP is only Rs 6,300 crore and the remaining goes to other political parties.
  • It is said that the nonBJP government and the companies or people that funded them were embarrassed. What is your take on that?
    In fact, Amit Shah had answered on this very aspect saying that people are afraid since they want secrecy over which party they gave funds to. Suppose I give some funds to BRS, BJD or TMC why would I want that the BJP or any other party should come to know of it? So every person wants to avoid this dilemma that their details come forward.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah once again has come across as a troubleshooter for Modi government amidst this controversy. How do you see that?
    That’s true. Since day one he has been the principal troubleshooter for PM Narendra Modi who is his Guru, boss, Godfather, guide etc. I have been observing this since their time in Gujarat. Interestingly, it has been observed in the Delhi media especially that earlier there used to be some sort of fear regarding Amit Shah and people used to shy away from talking, but today he appears to be extremely friendly, approachable and has become popular in media. That is why someone told me recently that it now seems he has learnt the lessons regarding media in his ‘Guru Narendra Modi’s class’. Also, he talks logically. I have seen people want to meet him and strike up a conversation because Shah does not like to hide anything but give a logical and practical answer to questions. When he gave all the reasons and logic in this issue, the media persons were left impressed and he completely changed the focus from BJP to other parties as he gave all the details which revealed that the TMC received Rs 1,609 crore, Congress Rs 1,421 crore, BRS Rs 1,214 crore, and BJD received Rs 775 crore. Rahul Gandhi termed it as ‘Hafta-Wasooli’ to which BJP countered saying that even if what he said was true, then why did his party also receive funds through electoral bonds? So it has to be said that Amit Shah has diffused this entire issue. And after Shah’s argument, Rahul Gandhi has lost the moral authority to challenge BJP or attack it, at least on this issue.
  • Why were there two sides in the Supreme Court Bar Association regarding the Electoral Bond issue?
    I believe some politics or something happened and a letter who shot to the Supreme Court citing that the SC does not have the power to do so. After the letter, the Bar officials formed another group and said that the letter may have been sent by the official in personal capacity and does not represent the voice of SC Bar Association. And the government played it smartly. Harish Salve stood up and said that the government honours the SC’s orders dated February 15 and March 11 to provide details from SBI to Election Commission and that the government will do so. During the hearing, CJI made a remark that this ruse was a media gimmick which he did not pay attention to. So this was only for a temporary period.
  • ED’s action is under consideration on some of the companies which gave funds to BJP. Did that put any negative image in people’s minds regarding Modi government?
    In initial couple of days, the BJP leaders did come on back-foot owing to the details released and the general perception that Opposition tried to make against BJP in public’s mind. But as soon as Amit Shah held the reins and the fact that all parties had a good share in the bond funds, then the situation changed completely. So, now everything is fine especially since the fund has been taken through cheques. Now, BJP leaders are telling other party leaders that they can only be questioned once they (Opposition leaders) have clean hands and image.
  • What is this development around Santiago Martin who returned from Myanmar as a labourer but became lottery King?
    See, it is about destiny and luck. He must have returned and got in touch with someone and started working in the lottery field. He established himself in that field and ventured into education, health and other fields. A few cases were also filed. However, when the details of donors were revealed it was learnt that this Lottery King gave a total fund of Rs 1,368 crore of which Rs 542 crore were received by TMC, Rs 503 crore to DMK and BJP received only Rs 100 crore, but the perception was created that BJP took Rs 1,368 crore as funds from Lottery King. So when this perception was broken, it was then that the embarrassment caused to BJP ended. As far as Santiago Martin is concerned, he has complete sway over lottery in Sikkim and Nagaland and perhaps has made inroads in Mamata’s state too. If someone is paying over Rs 500 to a state party then there must have been something worthwhile to make that donation. Moreover, when DMK’s fund is getting boosted by five hundred crore that means Chennai lottery must also be with the Lottery King. So Santiago Martin is a rags-toriches story.
  • What is your take on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s statements in this entire episode?
    She said with absolute clarity that there is no link between ED raids and political funding to ruling party. Furthermore, she also said that while people were pointing at cases, but no case has been dropped or closed against any corporate or company. Neither have the cases been dropped against Megha or Lottery King and it may have been a coincidence. Sure it looks bad if you only look at one angle, but if you see that the person who is giving political donation to BJP is giving to all other parties as well, then that is where the seriousness of the issue dies out.
  • What role did SBI and Election Commission play in this episode?
    They were at the receiving end. They had to comply with the orders. SBI surely had some reservations. Sometimes when you are associated with government you try to not put any harm or befall any difficulty before the government, so perhaps that thought struck the SBI too. The SBI provided the information asked of it. When the Supreme Court asked for additional information, the SBI provided the same. So they complied with SC’s orders and sent the details to Election Commission and the EC put that up on its website for the public to see.

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