Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defends the electoral bonds scheme: ‘One step better than what went before’

  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman defends the now-scrapped electoral bonds scheme, advocates transparency in electoral funding, denies freezing Congress accounts, downplays 'unemployment' as election issue, underscores informal sector expansion under BJP since 2014.

Livemint
First Published11 Apr 2024
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman(ANI)

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has defended the now-scrapped electoral bonds scheme saying that the scheme was “one step better than what went before”.

In an interview with The New Indian Express, Sitharaman said, the BJP regime brought the law “to clean up electoral financing”. “Electoral funding will have to go through a lot more transparency.”

The Finance Minister rebutted charges of freezing the bank accounts of the Congress party just before the Lok Sabha polls. The FM said that the Income Tax department had sent the notice to Congress in 2021 but they failed to file assessment papers.

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"All that a political party needs to do to remain out of the tax net is to file an assessment...You have not followed the rule of law or the law of the land, and you expect to be treated differently," she said.

Responding to questions about AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's arrest, Sitharaman asked, “Didn’t the Prime Minister, the then Chief Minister, appear before the CBI just before the Gujarat elections?” 

She said that he (Narendra Modi) went and answered all the questions. “But now this has become a big deal. I think it has become a business in this country to create that kind of sympathy, victimhood and then say this government is awful,” the FM said.

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Further, she firmly shunned that 'unemployment' is one of the key issues in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Sitharaman said the opposition parties are using the word "joblessness" to get some talking points.

Tooting her own horn, FM Sitharaman said that the informal sector base has widened since the BJP came into power in 2014. She told the English Daily that the gig economy has grown exponentially but there is inadequate data with her to prove her point.

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"It is a fact that in India we do not have data that is reflective adequately of the labour situation on the ground. We collect data on formal employment, but formal employment doesn’t constitute a large chunk of all employment in the country," FM Nirmala Sitharaman told The New Indian Express.

Further on the allocation of funds to states by the Centre, the finance minister said that the NDA government has no business in curtailing the development of any state.

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The opposition has often accused the Centre of not providing sufficient funds that are non-BJP-ruled states.

Sitharaman said, "We are led by a prime minister who’s been a chief minister, and who during UPA had seen what stepmotherly treatment is. With that experience, Modi, being in the Centre now as PM, knows that unless states get money in time, India’s development will be affected. You may have political differences, fight it out during polls, but there’s no business for any government to curtail the development of any state".

Sitharaman also commented on the Congress manifesto, specifically on the party promising 1 lakh to every poor family. Calling it a "flamboyant manifesto", she said that Congress should also explain where they are going to get the money from.

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