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Chief election commissioner Om Prakash Rawat. Photo: PTI
Chief election commissioner Om Prakash Rawat. Photo: PTI

EC looking into electoral bonds scheme

Chief election commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said EC was looking into the electoral bonds scheme and would offer suggestions to the centre if required

New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) is keeping its options open on the recently notified electoral bonds scheme for funding political parties.

Newly appointed chief election commissioner (CEC) Om Prakash Rawat, who took charge on Tuesday, said the poll watchdog was looking into the scheme and would offer suggestions to the Union government if required.

“We got the notification around 10 days back and our secretariat is examining threadbare as to what the import is... Their examination may be complete in a day or two and then they will bring up the issues with the Commission. The EC will then meet and decide as to what concerns have already been met and what remain. Then our final view will emerge," Rawat told reporters during an interaction.

“Whatever is needed to be done will be done," he said in response to a question on whether EC’s views will be communicated to the government.

EC’s move is significant because concerns have been raised about the bonds and their impact on transparency in political funding.

Electoral bonds are interest-free banking instruments which can be encashed only by registered political parties through a designated bank account.

Rawat, who succeeds Achal Kumar Joti, is the 22nd CEC of the country and will oversee a number of state elections this year. Also on Tuesday, former finance secretary Ashok Lavasa took over as an election commissioner.

When asked about EC’s readiness to hold simultaneous central and state elections, Rawat said that the poll body has already given its suggestions in 2015 around the logistical needs and the required legal framework.

“Logistical issues are subservient to legal. Unless legal framework is in place, we don’t have to talk about anything else because legal framework, including constitutional amendments and amendments to laws, will take a lot of time," he said, adding that once the legal framework is in place, EC will be able to hold simultaneous elections.

The new CEC said that public perception is important to maintain neutrality, impartiality and credibility of elections.

“I feel that in our working, this kind of expression of adverse opinion is not really indicative of trust deficit. Politics is the art of the possible and they work on those lines whereas the EC has to... decide every issue objectively. We are doing whatever is befitting to us, they are doing whatever is befitting to them," Rawat said while responding to recent criticism of the EC, particularly by opposition parties.

Over the last six months, EC has been attacked over a series of issues including the delay in announcement of Gujarat election schedule, controversy over electronic voting machines (EVMs) and more recently the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs.

The EC is also going to launch an “outfit" on Wednesday which will mark its foray into social media. “It will ensure that whatever is propagated through social media is known to EC and the EC ensures that it is healthy input for the electorate for furthering free, fair and credible elections," Rawat said.

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